BY DR. PROF. SHASTRA DUTTA PANT
Most of the Indian writers/politicians view that Nepal is shifting from India to China. It is not because of welcoming the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), signing of rail and roads connectivity, using Chinese seaports as per the privileged international rules of the land-locked countries; exchanging of electricity and airways connectivity. It is because China has been always positive and helpful towards Nepal from border settlements to security issues; non-corruptive development projects issues; behaving as a sovereign country and fully supporting in trade and industries. Indian investments in infrastructure development are bigger in number but all intended for exploitations while Chinese are “NiskamSewa”. Naturally Nepali people are positive with China. It is natural that Nepal does not like to be dependent on its southern neighbor alone.
To get out of the Indian sphere of influence, the most logical alternative, then, is China first and then Bangladesh and Pakistan due to its connectivity to Seaports. Unless India does not permit to run a free Nepal railways from Nepal’s dry-port to Indian ocean, Nepal’s economy will not only remain India-dependent but also Nepal goes on becoming poor to poorer to the ratio of its trade imbalance with India enlarging year after year.
Nepal is a landlocked Himalayan nation looking for ways to assert its “independent” foreign policy by maneuvering between India and China. India and China should note that Nepal is not a small country which could protect its sovereignty, culture and Oriental Dharma from time immemorial, which India could not and remain under foreign rules over thousand of years. India should respect and learn from Nepal instead of dominating it, making hurdles, influencing, torturing Nepalis and encroaching Nepali territories. This Indian behavior, in turn, is creating a lot of concern within the Indian administrative and foreign-policymaking circles. The most pertinent question is India’s over confidence whether Nepal can ever be able to move out of the Indian sphere of influence completely. If India just looks to three decades back, she will find the goodwill and economy of Nepal was better than of India. Nepal is lagging behind due to its penetration in politics and administration even in micro-level.
India is concerned about the increasing Chinese inroads in Nepal and elsewhere. China has been investing heavily in Nepal’s infrastructure development and has shown its support whenever Nepal appeared in need while India by using its pet GP Koirala asked him to spoil over six dozen key industries gifted by China and Russia. India still wants to see Tibetan people to use its territory for anti-China activities. Beijing and Kathmandu signed deals worth billion dollars and also for construction of a cross-border railway line. During the visit of PM KP Oli, the two sides also discussed direct flights, technology transfer and Tibet as an alternative route for supplying goods to Nepal. Nepal has always maintained One China Policy, which India does not like.
Defense and economic ties with China has now been a need for balancing peace, prosperity and social harmony. China has been keen to invest in Nepal which Indians are not. Chinese are slowly learning bad things from Indians for example the advertisement of the renovation of theDarbar High school. So is the case of the West Seti hydropower project and the BudhiGandaki Hydropower Project exceptionally where there is hands of some corrupt attitudes of Nepali authorities.
Nepal’s participation in the BIMSTEC drill at Pune in the western Indian state Maharashtra was decided under the Indian pressure, which Nepali people/intellectuals and media warned the government that Nepal’s participation was against the non-aligned foreign policy initiated by King Prithvinarayan Shah the Great, the founder and protector of Nepal. Nepal, instead, sending an observer is also against the wish of the people. Looking at the recent developments and trends, no one can argue that Nepal is undertaking massive efforts to get closer to China. However, in the present world of technology the Himalays will not be a barrier, in other words geography, history and demography will not be the problem. Connections and events highlight the fact that Nepal will find it very difficult to get away completely from the Indian influence, this is due to the attitude of the political leaders. Nepal can be a bridge instead of a buffer between India and China.
Nepal and India have been discussing ways to develop infrastructure, connectivity and development. Nepal has welcomed Indian investment and is giving additional facilities under the BIPPA agreement. Even though there are open borders, roti-beti relation and Nepal being India’s fifth wage earning country, the number of Indians visiting Nepal is poorer compared with the Chinese. Migration of the Nepali population to India for employment is declining instead the Indian population migrating to Nepal is increasing. There is no proper official figure but it is believed that around 1.5 million Nepalese stay and work in India while 6.4 million Indians stay and work in Nepal.
India and Nepal conduct the Surya Kiran military exercises twice a year, which is aimed at counterterrorism, however, Indians in the border are terrorizing people in Nepal in over 84 places. Nepalese citizens serve in the Indian Army who are being used to fight against Nepal’s friendly countries such as China and Pakistan, which is against the treaty. Indian ports are the nearest for Nepali traders but are always full of hurdles and it has made Nepali products expensive in the world market. Transport and shipment of goods is unequal and monopolized by India. Thus, geographically the issue is whether transport routes via Tibet would be financially feasible for Nepal is not a question of doubt, it is how they behave.
India must not be surprised that Nepal, as an ever independent sovereign country, looking for alternatives for ways to assert its prosperity. Nepal has always been wary of facing Indian blockades, state terrorism, affecting its supply of basic essentials, and continuing Indian meddling in its domestic affairs. To end the Indian blockade permanently, China has provided access to Nepal to a number of its ports. India needs to understand that Nepal, like all other South Asian countries, is in need of development and infrastructure, and China is ready to provide this. There is an urgent need for New Delhi to realize that it cannot afford to dilly-dally on promises and the dual policies. India must change its attitude borrowed from the Englishmen and gained knowledge from the Lord Lacaulyas education system.
Unless India comes to the Nalanda and Bikramshila University era of education, Nepal cannot tally with India. Even some Indians argue that hard infrastructure is what Nepal needs, and China is ready to fill the vacuum of Indian failures. It is now India to decide given the deep-rooted connections, or continue its harassments to Nepal and force it to incline elsewhere.
India and the UK still must realize that Nepal could protect its sovereignty, nationality, national unity and Dharma, Vedic society from the Islamic invaders for six different dynasties and the world colonizing having terroristic Isaiati Britons. Even that colonist English rulers could not control the 1958 anti-English Gadal without sincere help of Nepal. Both India and the UK still feel proud of their security due to the Gurkhas. India even could not unite its 562 states, Pakistan and Bangladesh were separated from the Indian map. Nepal, due to the visionary PN Shah’ policy could not only protect a genuine Hindu Kingdom but also block the Asian expansionism of the British colonialism. These two countries must whole heartedly repent their evil deeds that they did and are doing in Nepal.