"Familiarity Breeds Contempt"- this well-known adage fits very well, in so far as, it relates to & describes relations between India & Nepal. The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, necessitated by the emergence of communist China in 1949 and the invasion of Tibet brought the two countries together against a common threat from the North. Keeping in mind an expansionist communist China's posture of annexing foreign territories, Nepal's strategic interests lay in allying with India.
The religious and lingual similarities and easy territorial connectivity through multiple routes across the 1770 km border were an added advantage. It is often said that King Tribhuvan of Nepal had expressed his desire for the merger of Nepal with India but it was Nehru who had rejected the offer.
The Tripartite Agreement of 1947 between India, Britain & Nepal & Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950 is seen with a jaundiced eye by majority segments of Nepalese population. The Kathmandu Valley in particular has always seen these Treaties with suspicion & being unfavorable to Nepalese interests. Nepal’s efforts to convert the 1947 Treaty into a bilateral one with Britain met with no success.
Nepal, of late, has also been raising its voice against the employment of Gurkha soldiers in the Indian Army. A cash-starved Nation, Nepal should know that a huge sum of about 670 Crores of NPR is given by India as Pensions, etc alone with other help to Ex-servicemen & others who had served in Indian Government Departments. This amount perhaps exceeds the Nepalese Annual Defence Budget.
As India rose from being a regional power to a global one, her attention and commitment to larger issues gained priority and Nepal felt sidelined. These sentiments helped the rise to power and the growing influence of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
The party has thrived all along on anti-India sentiments- that have resonated more with the younger unemployed youth. Both-China & Pakistan have joined hands in fuelling anti-India sentiments from the soil of Nepal mainly from the long border belt which is mushroomed with ISI controlled Madrassas & Guest Houses. These are primarily meant to house undesirable elements to organize sabotage & anti-India activities.
The so-called "2015 Economic Blockade" helped fuel this sentiment and presently the path to power lies on whipping anti-India rhetoric and turning a blind eye to the "Roti-Beti" bond professed by India. A few days ago, a senior Minister of Nepal had stated that having a Hindu population in Nepal was of no consequence & significance.
The Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) founded in 1949 was formed to struggle against the autocratic Rana Regime, feudalism, and imperialism. It played an important part in throwing out Ranas. Thereafter, a lot of confusion took place in Communist-led Parties. All these were dissolved & merged with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) to create the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Ever since then, it itself has always been plagued by internal power struggle - initially between its overt leader, Baburam Bhattarai, and its clandestine leader, Pushpa Kumar Dahal, mostly known by his ‘nom de guerre’ Prachanda, and currently between Prime Minister KP Oli and Prachanda. China has taken great advantage of all this in house fighting & has been instructing its Ambassador Hou Yanqi located at Kathmandu to literally keep Oli, Prachanda & CPN in her pockets & continue fomenting trouble for India in collusion with Pakistan.
After the virtual inauguration of the border road to Lipulekh Pass on 8 May 2020 by the Indian Defence Minister, there have been reports of visits to the India- Nepal border areas by the Nepalese Chief of Army Staff, Gen PC Thapa followed by Nepal’s Home Minister. Reportedly, the Nepali ‘Chief Sab’ was initially reluctant to do so but the current anti-India sentiment and the lure of an extension of tenure beyond Sep 2021 may have swayed him.
Nepal and China have been engaging in joint military exercises since 2017. While joining China in Sagarmatha Friendship-2 military exercise in Chengdu in September 2018, Nepal chose to withdraw from BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) held in September the same year.
This is a clear policy shift of Nepal by asserting itself by enhancing bargaining power vis- a -Vis India & optimal gains being a landlocked country. It is amazing that India does not appear to have done enough to overcome its security dilemma arising out of military interaction between China & Nepal.
Besides printing of new maps and ratifying them in the Parliament on 20 June, Nepal has commenced the establishment of Border Outposts on its border with India. Though both countries have manned joint border outposts in the past to keep a vigil on Chinese intrusions, the outposts opposite India are a first of its kind.
Reports say 15 armed police outposts are being established along the Indo-Nepal border in Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district and adjacent areas. The Foundation stone of an armed police battalion headquarters was laid by the Home Minister of Nepal, RB Thapa, in Changru opposite Kalapani region in Pithoragarh on 25 September.
The recent cartographic invasion launched by Nepal showing Indian territories of Limpiadhura, Kalapani & Lipu Lekh is at the behest of direct instigation of Nepal -both by China & Pakistan. In the meantime, China has occupied about 1100 Sq KMs of Nepalese territory in the Humla District. Countrywide demonstrations & protests led by young students against this nefarious design of China are being held all over the Kathmandu Valley now a day.
Some recent intelligence reports allege that Prachanda is seeking to obtain 500 crore NPR in cash in order to buy the support of 50 MPs and wrest power in elections. If he prevails, this large amount is likely to come from the North – quite likely from Chengdu.
Of late the discomforting cozying-up between India's two neighbors continues unabated with Nepal not knowing as to what it is getting involved in. Pakistan – a Failed State is also surviving on Chinese doles. Chinese military thinking equates Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Arunachal Pradesh as five fingers of its palm. With Tibet having been occupied, these fingers should automatically go along with the palm-so says the Chinese Propaganda. While controlling three of these fingers would involve direct confrontation with India, Nepal and Bhutan can easily be tackled through a proxy. Nepal's political instability and current anti-India sentiments have afforded China an ideal opportunity to use Nepal as a perfect ‘proxy’.
From India's point of view, diplomacy has not been able to accomplish a favorable outcome - both with China & Nepal. The principles of Panchsheel, accepting China as the most dominant player in Asia, facilitating China's accession to the UN Security Council and allowing FDI by China have only worked to strengthen China and neighbors who support her or derive support from her.
We need a clearly stated national vision and strategy like the one-China established in the early 1990s and acted to achieve. Strategy ‘not of appeasement of our adversaries’ but based on’ assertiveness, economic growth, self-reliance and strong cooperation with democratic nations worldwide’; plus, a timeline to achieve that vision should be our motto.
I am happy that we are sending strong messages to the Dragon in Eastern Ladakh & to the Nexus - to say that it is NEW INDIA!