Folks, sharing some thoughts on the current state of India-Nepal relations.
I remember watching this above news break some days ago. My first reaction was not anger, but instead, sadness. Deep sadness is indeed what took over me when I saw this finally happen.
It was also partly the reason why I chose NOT to write anything on this issue. But now I think it is time I share my thoughts. As always, I am going to be writing this on the go, with only a very vague structure to my thoughts. Let’s see how it goes.
Firstly, the map being passed was inevitable. No politician worth his salt would want to vote AGAINST a resolution calling for ADDING territory to his country.
It doesn’t matter that Nepal chose only now to come up with an entirely new map after all these years of existence as an an independent Nation. Heck, even in their boundary agreement with China in 1961, where there was practically NO involvement of India, their map was what is shown below – WITHOUT the now famous finger-type protrusion.
Yet, now the Commie govt decided they needed that additional land.
Talking about the communist led govt in Nepal, what adds to the incredulity of the entire situation is the sheer timing of the act of claiming Indian territory – right in the middle of a standoff with China that is ruled by fellow commies.
With both their VERY large neighbours involved in a serious conflict, any prudent govt might have thought of delaying raking up the issue.
But then, the key word here is ‘Prudent’.
With Comrade Oli and his credentials, I have no doubt that he was batting on behalf of his commie masters in Beijing who were only seeking to open up another front against India.
Yes, I call them Masters because that is what they are, rosy ‘ideals’ of communism notwithstanding. The Middle Kingdom considers NO ONE as an equal, least of all a small country like Nepal.
But whatever be the motive, now the deed is done. Suffice it to say, it cannot be undone by any future parliament of Nepal – which parliamentarian would vote to ‘give away’ territory to another country, huh?
I will come back to this thought in a while.
Leaving aside the fact that a loony commie is in charge of Nepal these days, let me delve on the traditional relationship between Nepal and its neighbours.
To be fair, it is natural for a small neighbour to try and get out of the shadow of a ‘big brother’ every once in a while. However, this time comrade Oli seems to have gone beyond all earlier norms by taking things beyond a point of no return – neither is India going to accept ceding of her territory to Nepal, nor is Nepal going to take back its claims on the land it now claims.
That it has come at a time when India-China tensions are at a peak and the Lipulekh Pass is a strategic gateway into Tibet only adds to the rising sentiments in India which also brings into question the impartiality of Nepal in this entire India-China fracas.
The road in question didn’t just appear overnight, btw!
But then, there is just no way that you can wake up someone who is merely pretending to be asleep, isn’t it?
That is a question that will never find a satisfactory answer for jilted Nepali brothers and sisters.
China definitely has far more money to throw around, especially as bribes to amenable politicians – The Aussie lawmaker whose properties have recently been raided by law enforcement agencies is just one of the many that has gotten exposed. WHO Chief too comes to mind.
To that end, I’ll just leave this screenshot doing rounds on Twitter, here.
Of course, it will be panned as fake.
I don’t mid that one bit!
What I am coming to is that China and Nepal can NEVER be what India and Nepal have been over millennia – bound by a common cultural and even familial ties. Now add to that, the ties of blood that countless Gorkha brothers of Nepal have shed with fellow soldiers of the Indian Army.
I call it a ‘rishta’ of Roti, Beti aur Lahoo.
This is a bond that has lasted through thick and thin for more than two centuries.
Even today, as per a newspaper report I came across some days ago, more than 30,000 Nepalese citizens continue to serve in the Indian Army.
One thing that surely must have crossed the minds of the powers that be in New Delhi in recent weeks would have been their continued availability in case Nepal didn’t permit those on leave to rejoin in this moment of grave crisis on LAC, citing Coronavirus related lockdown. Heck, with Nepal still under lockdown, I’m not sure if the Indian soldiers out there have actually been able to rejoin their battalions or not.
This is potentially a really serious issue, with attendant repercussions on continued recruitment of Nepalese citizens in Indian Army.
I’m sure there will be atleast a few in Nepal who say they don’t want their fellow citizens to serve in another country’s army.
Logically, it is a fair demand as well.
But then, how might they employ the 30,000 odd citizens who might find themselves out of a job if that happens?
Add to that an average salary of approx INR 40K per month that would translate into INR 120 crore of remittance to Nepal every month, and repercussions are apparent.
Heck, there already are more than just a handful folks in Nepal already demanding cessation of Nepalese citizens joining IA. I’m sure none of them have given any thought to the economic impact to their own motherland in case this demand actually fructifies.
With a nominal GDP of $30Bn (source: wiki), I doubt the economic impact of such a thing actually fructifying will be easily bearable by Nepal.
Of course, I am not even talking about pensions to retired Indian soldiers of Nepalese origin who must be more than 1,50,000 in numbers.
Then there is the question of countless other Nepalese citizens travelling and working freely in India, thanks to treaty privileges.
Hope you get where I am getting to.
But thankfully, this is NOT going to happen anytime soon!
India-Nepal relations are different, much different than India’s relations with any of its other neighbours.
To be fair, it is natural for a small neighbour to play bigger neighbours against each other for its own benefit. In fact, Nepal is not the only Indian neighbour doing that.
In the larger scheme of things it hardly matters, so long as it doesn’t impact own national interests.
So much so, that not many know that Nepal is one of the VERY FEW countries of the world that actually provide VISA-FREE entry to Pakistanis!
Yup, IC-814 hijackers too got logistical assistance from Kathmandu.
Sanctions imposed on Nepal in the aftermath were not very helpful to their economy either.
Yet the visa-free entry to Pakistan continues.
India never made a fuss about that.
Yet, fact remains that Nepal has also long been a preferred entry point into India by Pakistani terrorists.
Of course, this fact too is largely unknown.
But coming back to the India-Nepal border issue. The question now to be asked is how will Nepal enforce it.
Mind you, I ask this in all seriousness.
The area where Lipulekh lies is one of the remotest areas of Nepal. I doubt whether even a decent road exists out there.
But even that question is moot.
The biggest question is how does it get enforced without use of force?
You know why I ask this?
Because the day force is used by either side, it will be the end of a civilizational linkage spanning over millennia.
A linkage of Roti, Beti aur Lahoo.
Of course, Nepalese border guards recently killed a few Indian citizens in Bihar. Yet, the GOI sought to downplay the entire incident, hoping for better sense to prevail. Sad as it might be, that seems to be the only pragmatic way ahead if we need any chance of normalization.
But soon thereafter there were reports of Nepal moving additional forces in that area. This is in addition to the news that Nepal is planning to establish an army outpost towards Lipulekh as well!
Then there are bombastic statements by so many on Nepalese side about they enforcing their claims by use of military.
Well .. to them I’ll say .. be my guest.
But before that I’ll ask them a few questions.
The first question is – what happens after the first bullet is fired? Is there any realistic way in which they can claim that they’ll prevail?
Yes, the Gorkhas make some of the best soldiers in the world. I have absolutely no doubts about that. It is a well deserved reputation, earned through much blood and toil.
But to say that they can just go an grab territory under Indian control is a bit .. well .. fantastical IMO.
But thankfully, this is something I don’t see happening. And thank God for that.
In any case, I find none of them having an answer to what happens elsewhere, in case bullets do start flying – status of Nepalese soldiers in IA, other Nepalese workers in India and such likes.
There is one more question I wish to ask of them, btw.
Are there any similar plans for retaking Nepalese territory currently in Chinese control?
Of course it took the commie govt of Kathmandu a really long time to even acknowledge this loss of territory and subsequently dismiss it as a fake news.
Well, you’ve made your bed.
And China is already occupying much of it.
But then, it is between Nepal and China, so I won’t comment on that any further.
Instead, what I wish to delve upon for a bit is to see how do we go back to a de-escalation of emotions from here.
All said and done, it would be a sad day indeed if the GOI ends up enforcing another blockade of Nepal.
Or if remittances / financial grants etc from India, that could be upto 10% of their nominal GDP, get affected.
Will China be able to provide economic opportunities to Nepalese citizens that India provides? Or a conduit to oil and other essential imports?
Or continue to provide opportunities to hoodwink the SAFTA as Oli and his ‘boys’ were caught doing recently by importing Malaysian palm oil after India stopped imports, and then re-selling it to India as ‘Nepalese’ palm oil?
Don’t believe me?
Bottomline – India has been a ‘Big Brother’ in the neighbourhood, no doubt.
That is a function of our geography that just cannot be wished away. But then, India has been a really benign Big Brother.
And this DESPITE the ENORMOUS leverages India holds.
Now compare that with China and how it treats its own neighbours.
Yes, the same China on whose tunes comrade Oli is dancing with reckless abandon.
To some extent, it is also a failure of Indian diplomacy that things have come to such a state. But then, the fact that comrade Oli is feeling threatened too is a natural outcome of the civilizational ties between India and Nepal re-asserting themselves.
Of course, even if he loses his job, it will be another member of the Nepalese Communist Party coming to power. But then, they have been in power earlier as well. ‘Prachanda’ has been in power in various avatars before. For all we know, he might end up coming back to power again.
But commie or not, I doubt he is as big a loonie as Comrade Oli.
However, even if that happens, thing remains that Nepal has CONSTITUTIONALLY adopted a new map.
This is a fact that just cannot be wished away.
This is something that can potentially be a lasting thorn in India-Nepal relations.
Might there be a way out of this mess that Oli has ended up creating?
The only option that comes to mind is for Nepal to go to the International Court of Justice or some such international forum to settle the issue either which way.
That apart, I don’t see any way out that might be acceptable to both sides. But it will be better to sort out this mess any which way possible, at the earliest. Once again, even if at the cost of repetition, I’ll say that civilizational ties cannot be wished away.
Nepalese economy is currently 100 times smaller than Indian economy. Over time, this discrepancy will only grow.
PERHAPS .. sometime in future Nepal might actually come into some form of a loose federation with India.
Remember, much of it was in any case a part of King Ashok’s empire more than two millennia ago. Terai region of Nepal itself continued in some form or another to be a part of a number of subsequent Indian kingdoms as well.
I know it is a flight of fancy, atleast for the time being.
But then, who knows ..
In any case, a China just cannot come to your aid the way India did after the recent earthquake. That’s because they are not only physically but also emotionally as far from Nepal as can be.
Time to end this blog post.
Nepal is free to build new bridges. It is their inalienable right.
BUT, burning old bridges in the process is something that is bound to raise a few eyebrows, especially when the new bridges have not yet been tested fully.
All I’ll say in the end is a repetition of something I said a number of times before in this blog – Roti, Beti aur Lahoo.