Across the aisle: How to lose a friend and alienate people

How did the ‘high’ of India-Nepal relations collapse to a point when all observers are agreed that they seem to have reached the nadir?.

Written by P Chidambaram | Updated: December 6, 2015 5:17 am
india, nepal, india-nepa relation, india-nepal relationship, congress, communist parties, CPI (M), CPI, express opinion, indian express Nepal has a special relationship with India. The two countries share a religious and cultural history.

How did the ‘high’ of India-Nepal relations collapse to a point when all observers are agreed that they seem to have reached the nadir?… The Congress and the Communist parties that have an international outlook have a special responsibility to initiate a debate on India-Nepal relations. A message must go that India is a good neighbour and a reliable friend who will abide by the rules of engagement between neighbouring countries.

The Government has come a long way since May 26, 2014. At least three neighbouring countries that stood and applauded the new Prime Minister as he was sworn in have distanced themselves from India. Others have become more watchful. In no case is this more evident than in India’s relationship with Nepal.

Nepal has a special relationship with India. The two countries share a religious and cultural history. There is an open border. Nepali nationals fought alongside Indian soldiers in many wars and do so even today. The Gurkha regiment is known for its valour. There are an estimated six million Nepali nationals who live and work in India.

Since Nepal is a landlocked country, with India on three of the four sides, its outreach to the rest of the world is through India. The bulk of Nepal’s trade is with India. Most of its supplies come from India or through India.

India has been a good and benevolent neighbour. It has extended special trade concessions to Nepal. It has extended aid. It has encouraged Indians to visit Nepal. There are many families in the two countries who are tied by marriage.

The Nepali Congress party was seen as a sister organisation of the Indian National Congress with shared political values. The Communist Party of Nepal had close ties with the Communist Party of India and, later, with both the CPI(M) and the CPI.

The birth Pangs
Since the monarchy in Nepal was replaced by a democratic structure, Nepal has gone through a very difficult period of transition. There have been many short-lived governments and many prime ministers. The Constituent Assembly struggled for many years to draft a Constitution. India extended strong support to Nepal in its endeavour to become a Constitutional Republic. During this period of instability and uncertainty, India did not waver in its support. Trade and commerce continued as before. Open borders remained open.

All this was reflected in the outpouring of joy when Nepal received Prime Minister Modi on his first official visit to Nepal. Mr Modi made a fine speech to Nepal’s Parliament. India-Nepal relations seemed to have touched a new high point.

How did that ‘high’ collapse to a point when all observers are agreed that Nepal-India relations seem to have reached the nadir?

Takeaway from Conversations

A few days ago I had occasion to meet some prominent businesspersons from Nepal. On a flight from Bengaluru to Delhi, Mr Kamal Thapa, Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, was seated next to me. The takeaway from my conversations (without attributing any particular statement to any particular individual) can be summarised as follows:

1. There are issues concerning the Madhesis, but India should allow Nepal the space and time to resolve those issues through negotiations. While espousing the cause of the Madhesis, India should not pit the Madhesis against the rest of the population.

2. A new Constitution has been adopted by Nepal’s Parliament. If it requires amendments, they can be made in due course after negotiations (just as the Indian Constitution has been amended over a hundred times).

3. There are about 112 constituencies where the Madhesis are dominant or have a significant presence. Only 11 MPs among them are opposed to the new Constitution.

4. There is one province that is comprised exclusively of Madhesi-dominated districts. They want another province with exclusively Madhesi-dominated districts. This is a matter that can be resolved through negotiation. It cannot be a cause for a blockade.

5. India intervened very late — beyond even the proverbial eleventh hour — to stop the adoption of the Constitution. When the Constitution was adopted nevertheless, India felt slighted, unjustifiably.

6. The people of Nepal — or certainly an overwhelming majority — believe that India has imposed the blockade and the Indian government has instructed suppliers, including Indian Oil, to stop supplies. Whatever may be the reality, that is the perception, and with the passage of time that perception is getting stronger.

7. Nationalist feelings in Nepal are riding very high, and the overwhelming majority of the people has turned against India. Even MPs elected from the Madhesi-dominated constituencies blame India for the blockade. That is why, despite four months of immense hardship and suffering, there is no protest by the people against the Government of Nepal. They are determined to face the situation bravely.

8. With a seasoned politician as External Affairs Minister, a highly skilled and experienced diplomat as Foreign Secretary and an astute security expert as NSA, how did India commit grave tactical mistakes in dealing with Nepal?

9. India made the mistake of attempting belatedly to block the adoption of the Constitution. India made the mistake of opposing (silently) the election of Mr K P Sharma Oli as Prime Minister. India made the mistake of propping up Mr Sushil Koirala as a candidate for Prime Minister when Mr Oli was all set to offer Mr Koirala the Presidency.

10. Nepal expects Indian political parties and Parliament to assert themselves and direct a course correction before matters reach a point beyond repair.

Being a good Neighbour

Parliament is in session. The Congress and the Communist parties that have an international outlook have a special responsibility to initiate a debate on India-Nepal relations. A message must go that India is a good neighbour and a reliable friend who will abide by the rules of engagement between neighbouring countries.

 

Website: pchidambaram.in @Pchidambaram_IN

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  1. S
    Satendra kumar
    Dec 6, 2015 at 9:48 am
    Nepal is a republic who has own resolution and commitment it needs favourable ideas and intelligence from all section of the societies to govern the country in the civilised and democratic system the respect for all it's citizens.
    Reply
    1. A
      Abhi
      Dec 6, 2015 at 3:02 am
      Mr. PC by reading your first takeaway I understood your wisdom. I think you are more concerned about blockade than the madhesis trouble.Madhesis are nothing but Indians we should standby with them in their trouble. It's time for Nepalese to come in our way not us.and I don't expect you to think like pappu please.
      Reply
      1. M
        Mani Ram
        Dec 6, 2015 at 11:05 am
        Where is our Emby and the government? Why it took so long to communicate ground reality to Indian politicians!
        Reply
        1. P
          Partha Gopalan
          Dec 6, 2015 at 12:21 am
          PC and Congressi, you have no moral authority nor a good history to talk about friendly neighborly relations. Look at the mess you created in stan, and in Srilanka. You almost left India fend against China stan together. At least now, India has handled the Chinese part well. In Srilanka, you armed and supported millitant organization, didnt know what to do after they got out of control, finally left the common Tamils fend for themselves, and die the most brutal death. Your report card from the last 60 years is stinking, below average and a huge failure. You are sitting on pile load of s h i t named failure and taking pot shots at a party which hardly been in power for 20 months. Current generation of India are not fools any more and bend down and let things happen. Please stop writing these absurd articles
          Reply
          1. P
            Partha Gopalan
            Dec 6, 2015 at 12:43 am
            what is i n g opinion, Or you are to shy away from the facts you nut case?
            Reply
            1. R
              Rajan
              Dec 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm
              This is all Mr Ranjit Rae fault (India ambador for Nepal) its his responsibility to fill the gap between two countries and work out to solve the problem. He is busy talking with Nepalese media, going on television shows and giving interviews. He has no rights to talk about Nepal's internal matters. He is just an ambador but his acts like Minister of India in Nepal. India must immediately call Ambador Ranjit back home. He is not giving right message to the government of India and his activities in Nepal are making the things worst.
              Reply
              1. U
                US NRI
                Dec 6, 2015 at 9:35 am
                Nice read. Reflects a lots of study snd analysis on your part. Great job Sir. How bout economy analysis of modi govts success/ failure. You would do much better on your forte.
                Reply
                1. K
                  K SHESHU
                  Dec 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm
                  India should have left Nepal alone to solve its internal problem. The authoritative atude does not in any way increae India's hold on the neighbour country. The signals are already distressing. The time is running out beyond the reach. At least now, India should mend its policy.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    ajeet
                    Dec 6, 2015 at 9:40 am
                    It was pretty much the Congress that let the Chinese influence increase in Nepal and it was Congress which started the blockade as a weapon during Rajiv hi's time. It was Congress that dithered in supporting the Nepalis against Chinese backed Maoist insurgency.
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      binod
                      Dec 5, 2015 at 7:09 pm
                      I hope the recent rapprochement is not just another tactical move to win the " perception game" that India realized that it is loosing badly..I won't be surprised if the Madhes agitation continues and a new narrative of madhes agitation as the reason for blockade despite India easing its stance starts to circulate soon after Indian journalist in Nepal visit return..
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        Anil Tandale
                        Dec 6, 2015 at 4:29 am
                        UPA was dependent upon Communists and effectively pushed Nepal into the hands of Communists led by Prachanda who was college mate of Yechuri at JNU. Now PC is trying trying to blame Modi for Congress perfidy.
                        Reply
                        1. A
                          Anurag
                          Dec 7, 2015 at 5:29 am
                          Nepal shares borders with the most undeveloped and uneducated places of India like Bihar and UP so the Nepalese perception of India is not very good, I have many Indian friends here in the US and i have the Uttermost respect for them and vice versa.
                          Reply
                          1. B
                            bhoj kan
                            Dec 7, 2015 at 10:49 pm
                            Nepali are against the hypocrite Modi government not with India or indians..We are an independent nation ,let us solve our own problems ourselves,as a neighbor you can suggest us ,but don't COMMAND us .that's all..
                            Reply
                            1. दिवाकर
                              Dec 6, 2015 at 11:48 am
                              Thank you PC for your intellectual openion. I request all the concerned to read the Nepal's consution first then comment how this poor from India's consution. Eventhough there are places for amendment if needed by Nepalese. There is no necessary of Blockade which we have been carrying since more than 2.5 months.
                              Reply
                              1. H
                                Harry
                                Dec 6, 2015 at 3:28 pm
                                Nepal has excellent relationships with Indian people and political parties except some BJP. Few Indian origin recently arrived immigrants, who aquired high position and prosperity in small time in Nepal are being used by present Indian authorities to start tribal conflict to spoil water resources of Nepal in improper manner. Very sad.
                                Reply
                                1. K
                                  Karunakaran
                                  Dec 6, 2015 at 4:54 am
                                  If a programmer is intelligent, why should he report to a manager? A ridiculous observation. The photoshopped black to pink Gujjubhai mann-key man has no time for the neighbours. He is busy going to foreign countries, to take selfies with the goras. If he has any time to spare to spend in India, he spends it to come up with empty slogans. None of the neighbours seem to be happy and comfortable with the present Indian government. What a tragedy! Indians must get ready to welcome either Mr hi Mr Nitish Kumar as their Prime mInister. Both Mr hi and Mr Nitish Kumar have style and have substance. Both of them are very dignified. They will never run after the goras to take a selfie.
                                  Reply
                                  1. K
                                    Karunakaran
                                    Dec 6, 2015 at 1:52 am
                                    The photoshopped black to pink Gujjubhai mann-key man has no time for the neighbours. He is busy going to foreign countries, to take selfies with the goras. If he has any time to spare to spend in India, he spends it to come up with empty slogans. None of the neighbours seem to be happy and comfortable with the present Indian government. What a tragedy! Indians must get ready to welcome either Mr hi Mr Nitish Kumar as their Prime mInister. Both Mr hi and Mr Nitish Kumar have style and have substance. Both of them are very dignified. They will never run after the goras to take a selfie.
                                    Reply
                                    1. K
                                      Karunakaran
                                      Dec 6, 2015 at 4:54 am
                                      The photoshopped black to pink Gujjubhai mann-key man has no time for the neighbours. He is busy going to foreign countries, to take selfies with the goras. If he has any time to spare to spend in India, he spends it to come up with empty slogans. None of the neighbours seem to be happy and comfortable with the present Indian government. What a tragedy! Indians must get ready to welcome either Mr hi Mr Nitish Kumar as their Prime mInister. Both Mr hi and Mr Nitish Kumar have style and have substance. Both of them are very dignified. They will never run after the goras to take a selfie.
                                      Reply
                                      1. P
                                        Prakash khadka
                                        Dec 6, 2015 at 7:19 am
                                        Very Good Summary
                                        Reply
                                        1. D
                                          Damaru Prasad
                                          Dec 6, 2015 at 4:09 am
                                          You have said something explosive. Don't you think India cannot afford to take on China, the country which has occupied a large swathe of Indian territory and India cannot do anything? If as you say Indian army marches into Kathmandu do you think China will go to sleep? Their army will reach Patna chasing Biharis from Nepalese tarai.
                                          Reply
                                          1. D
                                            Devi Das
                                            Dec 6, 2015 at 3:48 am
                                            Looks like you are taking writing vary seriously and making points meticulously. Don't you think time could be better spend in Chennai helping people rather than flying to Delhi or writing this column.? Or you would have just started witting about failures of current govt in helping Chennai people rather you helping ? Have you visited them yet? There must be better reason to fly to Delhi.
                                            Reply
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