A series of recent developments have marked a new low in Nepal-India relations – a relationship the two sides in better times often referred to as a ‘historic and special one’.
Early this month, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, India criticised Nepal’s human rights record, especially in dealing with the Madhesi agitation. India also demanded legal action against those guilty of human rights violations during the years of insurgency in Nepal — India had mediated the Maoists joining mainstream politics, the insurgents who had raised arms against the state.
India has also apparently succeeded in getting Britain — a country that marks 200 years of diplomatic relations with Nepal this year — to toe its line on the constitution that Nepal promulgated on September 20. A joint statement issued by Britain and India during
Prime Minister Modi’s visit last week to the UK, advised Nepal to address the prevailing grievances of different sections of the people and create a condition for stability and economic prosperity.
In essence, India which has always treated Nepal as a country in its sphere of influence, is raising issues concerning its neighbour in world forums for the first time.
Newly-elected Nepalese Prime Minister K P Oli, who had been delaying the customary address to the nation as PM, chose to respond to both issues as well as the controversial blockade, on Sunday. His speech had a few underlying messages: India was undermining Nepal’s sovereignty and its right as a landlocked country; it was not respecting Nepal’s right to create its own constitution; because of the obstruction in supplies, pregnant women and patients in need of surgery, and children were badly hit and that the Nepalese public blamed India for the current situation.
He wholeheartedly praised China as a friend-in-need having provided fuel and other commodities in the hour of crisis, and issued a warning to India: Nepal was not going to depend solely on India for trade and supply any longer—currently, around 70 per cent of external trade is with India.
‘The ‘blockade’ by India has taken place in the past as well, with the longest one lasting for 19 months in 1988-89, but the criticism of India was never as strident as now. China’s stepping in to assist Nepal, and India taking issues to international forums, are two developments in the bilateral relations that may have long term consequences.