FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Next Door Nepal: Non-alignment in Kathmandu
Updated:Jul 17, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Yubaraj Ghimire 
 
The recent stand-off between India and China over Doklam has fueled speculation in Nepal, mainly over the impact it may have on the country should it escalate into an unanticipated war. After all, the stand-off involves two countries that Nepal, in principle, wants to maintain relations of equal distance or proximity. Officially, India has congratulated Nepal for sincerely pursuing “balanced” relations with its neighbours. In fact, that is how India remembered Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal when he quit as prime minister in June after holding office for about 10 months.
 
The prolonged transition process and the visible loss of authority of the state at home and abroad has drastically reduced Kathmandu’s influence, owing to its geo-strategic location, in the neighbourhood. Neither side in the current stand-off seems to have contacted Nepal, officially and explained the issues behind it.
 
It wasn’t always so. Indira Gandhi had profusely thanked Kirtinidhi Bista, the then-prime minister of Nepal, for sharing his assessment, in response to a query, that as far as he understood, China may not want to get involved in the event of the Indian army joining the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. L.P. Singh, a renowned bureaucrat, had thanked him on behalf of Mrs Gandhi after Bangladesh’s liberation was secured without China objecting to Indian military activities then, Bista, now 89, and ailing, states in a write-up.
 
In 1962, when India and China fought a war, Nepal had far less stakes. “We were fearful that China may raise the issue of Gorkha deployment in the war but to save us from diplomatic embarrassment, China did not,” says a senior diplomat who then held a key position in the government. Despite being a neighbour, China, for all practical purposes, was then a distant land for Nepal. However, China’s South Asia policy has undergone a sea change over the years: It now seeks to neutralise and challenge Indian presence. Nepal has already signed trade and transit agreements with China besides preparing for multiple road projects and railway lines connecting the two countries.
 
Nepal’s growing connectivity with China is largely in rebound to India’s economic blockade of 2015, and the unpopularity it earned for brazenly interfering in Nepal’s internal politics during the Maoist insurgency and after. China seems to have taken note of it in the current stand-off. “India controls Bhutan’s defence and diplomacy, seriously violating Bhutan’s sovereignty and national interests. Indians have migrated in large number to Nepal and Bhutan, interfering with Nepal’s internal affairs. The first challenge for Nepal and Bhutan is to avoid becoming a state of India, like Sikkim,” a prescriptive opinion piece by Xiangchun, published on July 9, in the Global Times, said.
 
This comes as a setback for Nepali leaders, especially those at the helm of affairs now, who have been asserting that with India-China trade crossing the billion dollar mark, Nepal will benefit from its proximity to two giant economies. Both India and China, through their ambassadors in Kathmandu, were regularly in touch to formulate a common “position” on Nepal to ensure an early end to the transition and political stability. That initiative may suffer if the current stand-off is not settled amicably, or it escalates further.
 
The immediate task for Nepal is to set its house in order. Conciliatory measures need to be taken to bring all sides as stakeholders in the Constitution even if that will need drastic changes in the document. Damannath Dhungana, civil society leader, peace negotiator and a former speaker of Parliament, recently raised a pertinent question in a public debate. “A sovereign people constitutes a republic, but did Nepal adopt a due process to get there?” he asked. The republic involves popular sovereignty and it can’t be dictated by a handful of leaders, as it happened in Nepal. Many actors now also realise that a political and power vacuum at the top, when there is a conflict in the neighbourhood, will reduce Nepal to a playground of the forces in conflict and their allies. That will not be in the interest of India or China, not to speak of Nepal.
 
Throughout the peace and transition process that has run in parallel since 2005, China asserted that its interest in Nepal is as high as any other country. But Beijing has constantly conveyed in public and through diplomatic channels that China will do everything to protect Nepal’s “independence and sovereignty”, giving a clear message that the “politics of Nepal has to remain in its sovereign domain”. And as India seems to realise gradually that its policy and conduct in Nepal during the past decade needs a review — the U-turn on its Tarai policy is an indication — it may at least encourage Nepali actors to settle the contentious issues by going to the people wherever necessary.
 
A stronger and stable Nepal will be able to stop its territory from being used by outside forces inimical to its immediate neighbours and maintain meaningful neutrality like it did in 1962.
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Relations between India and Morocco go back a millennium with the first recorded links dating to the 14th century, when the famous traveller and writer from Tangier, Ibn Batuta, travelled to India.
 
read-more
Stepping up action against terrorists attacking India, President Donald Trump's Administration has declared Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HM) a “global terrorist organisation” in an attempt to choke off financial and other support to it.
 
read-more
On 14 August 1947 Pakistan, consisting of East and West Pakistan, celebrated its independence. The 14th was chosen for the ceremony because Lord Mountbatten who came to Karachi as the Chief Guest had to later leave for Delhi where ot the midnight stroke India was to declare its independence.
 
read-more
The Doklam stand-off and a variety recent opinion pieces in magazines and newspapers draws attention to the poor state of defence policy preparedness and the lack of meaningful higher defence control in India. 
 
read-more
The two ideologically divergent ruling partners - the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - in Jammu and Kashmir are headed for a showdown as the debate over the abrogation of Article 35A of the Constitution of India heats up.
 
read-more
At the root of the present Doklam crisis is China’s intrusion into Bhutanese territory for its road building projects. These connectivity projects are integral to President Xi Jinping’s dream project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). India and Bhutan were the only two countries that did not participate in the first forum
 
read-more
It wasn’t so long ago that the whole world watched as Donald Trump sashayed on to the Riyadh red carpet and stole the show with his tough talk on Iranian-sponsored terrorism.
 
read-more
A vehicular attack to maximise casualties and spread panic is now a well-tested terrorist strategy in European cities.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Column-image

This is the continuing amazing spiritual journey of a Muslim man from Kerala who plunged into Vedic religion after a chance encounter with a Hindu mystic under a jackfruit tree in the backyard of his house when he was just nine. It is a story w...

 
Column-image

History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.

 
Column-image

Humans have long had a fear of malignant supernatural beings but there may be times when even the latter cannot compare with the sheer evil and destructiveness mortals may be capable of. But then seeking to enable the end of the world due to it...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive