Frosty welcome for India in Nepal

Those who rule India from their power base in Delhi may not be wrong to view Nepal as their closest neighbor as well as ally, but whether the denizens of this largely mountainous country sharing a northern border with China – through Tibet – agree to such a perception has been a contentious issue ever since the British left the subcontinent in 1947.
Image above: The south face of Mt. Kailash, or the “sapphire face” of the crystal-shaped mountain on the confluence of India-Nepal-China border. While on the top, when you see below, to the south spreads the broad rolling plain that holds Lake Manasarovar (the blessed lake and its neighboring Rakshas Lake (the demon lake). Beyond far to the south, rises the high Himalaya, which forms the border between Tibet, Nepal, and India.




by Dhruba Adhikary


nepalflagKATHMANDU – Those who rule India from their power base in Delhi may not be wrong to view Nepal as their closest neighbor as well as ally, but whether the denizens of this largely mountainous country sharing a northern border with China – through Tibet – agree to such a perception has been a contentious issue ever since the British left the subcontinent in 1947.

Although the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, concluded in July 1950, sought to institutionalize the assertive posture Delhi thought it had inherited from its colonial masters, the Nepalis have consistently challenged this pact, describing it as an unequal treaty from the very day it was signed.

The treaty has often been compared with the pact the Soviets imposed on Finland in 1948.

The people of Nepal, although ethnically diverse and politically polarized, have always been against what they perceive as Delhi’s bullying behavior. This week has been no exception.

First, Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna was greeted with black flags by those protesting against encroachment into Nepal’s border regions. While Krishna’s consultations with government leaders were to contain India’s offer of assistance during its current democratic transition, his meeting with the top Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (popularly known as Prachanda), was utilized to deliver a tough message to restrain anti-Indian rhetoric used to promote Nepali nationalism.

The customary joint press statement, issued on January 17 in Kathmandu at the end of Krishna’s three-day visit, restricted itself to alluding to “age-old, multifaceted relations” between the countries. But Krishna’s office in New Delhi released a separate statement saying the visiting minister “conveyed deep disappointment at the baseless attacks on India by the Maoist leadership”.

This statement is indicative of the tough talks that Prachanda had with Krishna.

Left: Nepal’s popular leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a Maoist, is also known as Prachanda.

The Maoist party Prachanda leads, commands 40% of the seats in the 601-strong Constituent Assembly, which is working on a new constitution expected to be promulgated by May 28 this year.

Krishna’s warning was not taken too seriously,as was evident at the start of the four-day visit to Nepal of the Indian army chief, General Deepak Kapoor, starting on Tuesday. He, too, felt the heat from the outset at Kathmandu airport.

Over a dozen Maoist cadres were detained for several hours for waving black flags at the Indian visitor. On the same day, Maoists staged a rally and held a public meeting in front of the Indian Embassy.

One of Prachanda’s deputies, Narayankaji Shrestha, told the audience that while the Maoists were in favor of maintaining normal, neighborly relations with India, what they opposed was Delhi’s continuous interference in Nepal’s internal affairs.

India officially always denies allegations of interference, but there have been occasions when such claims have proved true. One such occasion was in June 2006 – shortly after the April uprising against king Gyanendra’s absolute rule. An Indian parliamentary delegation visited Nepal, and one of delegates, S Sudhakar Reddy, observed after returning home:

“Nepal is at the political crossroads and should be allowed to decide its policies independently without any intervention.” He did not mince words over where the interference was coming from.

“Keeping in view the past experiences with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, it is better that we keep away from the internal affairs of that country.”

Unlike Nepal’s other political parties, the Maoist party has displayed skill at winning over the public and arousing a sense of nationalism. The leadership has explained that it has no quarrel with India as a country and its people; its confrontation is with the rulers in Delhi representing the political elite, bureaucracy, defense establishment and intelligence agencies.

Kapoor’s name surfaced precisely in this context. In a fiery speech he gave on the last day of a three-day nationwide general strike on December 22, Prachanda asked how the Indian army chief could “publicly advise” Nepal’s army chief, General Chhatraman Singh Gurung, to reject a proposition aimed at integrating former Maoist combatants into the national army. (These combatants numbering nearly 20,000 are sheltered in United Nations-supervised camps.)

It is a sensitive subject and is under official negotiations in line with peace accords signed ending the decade-long Maoist insurgency (1996-2006). There are serious apprehensions that if the integration issue is not resolved fairly, the whole plan for promulgating the new constitution on time might not be achieved.

Nepal could face a constitutional crisis of an unprecedented nature.

After quitting the premiership last May amid controversy regarding his decision to sack the then army chief, Prachanda has toured various parts of the country, telling the people about Delhi’s excesses with regard to Nepal. The issues he has chosen to raise include Nepal’s notorious and mysterious palace massacre of June 2001, which claimed the lives of king Birendra, his queen and the crown prince.

Echoing the perceptions of a section of the population, he said the monarch was killed for being a nationalist. Prachanda has also alluded to the death of another firebrand nationalist leader, Madan Bhandari, 16 years ago.

After Kapoor’s remarks to the media came at a New Delhi reception during his Nepali counterpart’s tour of India in December. Although the Nepal army and its ministry did not react to Prachanda’s objection, the Indian Embassy found it expedient to clear the air on the eve of Kapoor’s reciprocating trip to Nepal. His remarks, an embassy press release said, did not “reflect the government of India’s position” on the issue of “PLA integration” in Nepal army.

The Maoists’ annoyance was further exacerbated when their cadres intercepted a caravan of military vehicles “quietly” entering Nepal. This led them to accuse the Nepal army of importing weapons that could be used against them, defying provisions of the peace accords.

Later, it was officially clarified that the fleet of 100 vehicles were carrying non-lethal equipment from India.

Indian media reports have said that New Delhi has been embarrassed more than once by Kapoor’s publicly aired thoughts.

A seminar speech in which he spoke of two-front war against China and Pakistan was one such occasion.

MK Narayanan, until recently India’s national security advisor, has also influenced political events in Nepal in recent years. Weeks before Nepal went to the polls in April 2008, he appeared on television saying that India favored the Nepali Congress party and its leader, Girija Prasad Koirala. This prompted other political parties to be apprehensive about Indian designs on Nepal.

Narayanan’s statement left room for speculation that Delhi had a hand in the sudden creation of new regional parties in the southern plains bordering the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh just a few months before the constituent assembly election.

That Narayanan, who worked as the chief coordinator of India’s intelligence agencies, was involved in matters relating to Indian policies towards Nepal surfaced in a recent article in an Indian newspaper. “The Maoist menace at home and the mess in Nepal bear further testimony to his sterling abilities,” said a reporter from The Pioneer in a January 17 piece reviewing Narayanan’s performance.

In the initial years of Nepal’s political crisis, which was accentuated by the royal coup in early 2005, Delhi, Washington and London used to consult Kathmandu to find a durable solution. But, over time, both Washington and London perhaps thought it wise to “outsource” the job to Delhi.

And Delhi’s political masters apparently found it useful to depend on the works and reports of agencies headed by persons like Kapoor and Narayanan.

Is India alone to be blamed for the political crisis in Nepal? Experienced politicians admit that it is often the Nepali side which, unwittingly or otherwise, leaves space for India to intervene. One such person is Prakash Chandra Lohani, a former foreign minister. Some of the politicians have gone out of the way to “invite” interference, he recently told a radio interviewer.

Who then bells the cat? Maoists claim they can, and they think they actually have. Regardless, Nepal is entering a crucial phase ahead of the May 28 deadline for issuing the new constitution.

Dhruba Adhikary is a Kathmandu-based journalist.
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5 replies to “Frosty welcome for India in Nepal

  1. Dear editor,
    I read the analysis of D, Adhikari. Actually, the main cause of crisis in Nepal is the Indian naked intervention. Nepalese democratic exercise faced the black period in between 2005-2009. During the period, Nepalese people tolerated the worst political practice made by corrupt leaders. The nation achieved the climaxed height of the lawlessness, theft, robbery, ransom and murders. The corruption is out of control. Nobody is responsible to control the corruption. Is it democracy ?Experiences are the proofs to reveal that all the political leaders invested their time and energy just for power and to accumulate big chunk of money, land, home and expensive vehicles. Their amassed properties in the name of democracy are hidden in different banks, lands, big houses and business. They are beyond the reality that the people might be fooled for a moment with the political dishonesty, but not for ever. Democracy has been abused as a ladder for power by the anti-nationalist political leaders.

    Since last three years, the Nepalese people are being divided ethnically. The Maoist model of federalism (agenda of Indian), which is based on ethnicity, can disintegrate unity of the country. The racial federalism can never develop the norms of democracy but creates racial conflicts.Nepal has always shown goodwill towards India. But the Indian intention is quite suspicious no matter the co-operations between two countries. India professes one thing and acts contrary to it which always gives a room to suspect its role.
    The Nepalese people are reluctant to live under the shadow of guns, rather they want peace. They want relief from the drudge of their lives. UNMIN have been very irresponsible and they, following the hints of India, are bent on making this country a ‘failed state’. It is a matter of deep regret that the UN representatives, American ambassador, European Union an others have made a great mistake in supporting the republic, secularism, interim constitution, so-called interim parliament and the council of minister. Opposing attempt to abolish monarchy that has remained the basis of this country assessment of the geography, geo-political situation and ethnic sensitivity for so long and to try to establish a federal state based on ethnicity indicates the bad omen of the break-up of the country. The despotic leaders and Nepali Congress, UML and the Maoist party has no right to sink this country. Nepal is a land-locked country between the two power giants- China & India and multi-ethnic nation where no group is in majority, but the Nepalese monarchy can get only along with people of all regions and ethnic backgrounds irrespective of their culture, language, political affiliations and caste. Therefore, there is no alternate that all the nationalist forces including the King should protect the country.
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai
    Former Member of Parliament, Nepal.

  2. @ Dirgha Raj Prasai Sb.,

    You are 100 percent right. It has always been India’s naked interventions almost everywhere in the SAARC region. Because of its huge size and a relatively advanced and likewise large sized military machine that she inherited from the British, India forcibly occupied areas like Hyderabad [Deccan, which is now renamed as Andhra Pradesh], Goa, Daman, Manvdar, Mangrol, Dev and Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. Simultaneously it started fomenting an anti Sinhala movement in Sri Lanka by Tamil militants who were financed, trained, and propelled by India to break Sri Lanka into two states. At the time they were planning this insurgency in Sri Lanka, they were also planning to break up Pakistan. They trained Mukti Bahini in the then East Pakistan and helped the rebellious elements there to fight against the central authority in Pakistan. The objective was not to help the Bangladeshi people attain independence but to remain a vassal state of India.

    I remember my student days in Europe [just after Dec. 1971 war] when I met certain Bangladeshis who were not Muslims but Hindus and they narrated to me how the Indians had started looting every factory, every bank, every economical unit in Bangladesh. According to them anything which could help Bangladesh stand on her own feet while it was just in its infancy stage, was looted by the Indians merely because at that time Bangladesh was at the mercy of the Indians.

    By now it’s crystal clear that the idea behind that movement was not to help Bangladeshis against their fellow citizens in West Pakistan but to cut Pakistan to a size that it would no more be able to challenge India’s hegemony in the region. In other words to strike at the roots of a state which they thought was their only rival in South Asia. You just watch some Bollywood movie and you may find a lot of filthy stuff against Pakistan.

    Nepal too, being a small country like its other South Asian neighbors has been on the Indian agenda to become a surrogate state for its grandiose Akhand Bharat agenda [as a successor state to the British empire which according to Indian extremists will be another equivalent of the empire where sun would never set].

    In fact Indian leaders have never been able to reconcile with their smaller neighbors’ existence as independent states. This megalomania of Akhand Bharat sometimes comes up in launching a proxy putsch in a neighbor like Nepal, [or imposing embargos to cripple Nepal’s economy which they once did but ultimately failed. Actually it were these imperialistic moves by India which brought Nepal closer to China and Pakistan]. Another time they do this in Sri Lanka, then they feel like moving their fingers towards Bangladesh to toe their line on the simple whims of being “A BIG, RICH, POWERFUL COUNTRY”. [What to speak of Pakistan which is and always has been on the hit list agenda of Big brother in SAARC region].

    I think there is an urgent need that all of India’s neighbors join hands at the SAARC forums to tell India it is indeed a great country, but to exercise its greatness it has to be magnanimous for magnanimity brings brothers and friends closer, not the other way India does it i.e. the hegemonistic way.

    Muhammad Wasi of Kundian

  3. Indian leaders and Govt should learn the lesson about Kashmiri tunnel.
    The reality is that- India constructed 40 km long tunnel investing billions of rupees in between Jammu and Srinagar valley. But Kashmiries did not favour India. If Indian interests in Nepal are like that of to Bhutan and Sikkim, India won’t be safe. It is because terrorism can be institutionalized in this situation which will be harmful to India. Therefore we warn India to correct itself from such blunders. Indian interest is to make Nepalese defence and foreign policy in accordance to India. Since 2006, Nepal is being guided by pro-India party leaders. After the downfall of Maoist led-government in May 2009, Sujata Koirala, the corrupt and anti-nationalist lady who has no diplomatic capabilities, appointed as a vice-PM and foreign minister who is the daughter of Girija. It seems this could be a strategy to surrender Nepalese foreign and defence policy to India. If you see list of ambassadors of Nepal to be sent to friend country, you will find smugglers, murderers and criminals who have no idea of foreign affairs. Therefore Nepalese foreign policy is shameful status in international level.
    Thank you.
    Dirgha Raj Prasai

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