The Doval-Rae doctrine wants assurance that naturalized citizenship holders in Nepal will get to become president and prime minister
The coercive foreign policy doctrine of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Indian ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae has prolonged the Indo-Nepal crisis. The aim of this doctrine is to induce Nepal to comply with New Delhi's demands, or to negotiate the most favorable compromise in favor of New Delhi, while simultaneously preventing further deterioration of Nepal-India ties. The doctrine, which derives its ideological foundation from former Indian foreign secretary and ambassador to Nepal Shyam Saran, wants to achieve three core objectives: first, ensure naturalized citizenship holders get to key constitutional posts; second, to create 'One Madhesh Two Provinces'; and third, to reestablish Nepal as a Hindu state. Thus this doctrine provides a template to smoothly contextualize Nehru's foreign policy.
The Doval-Rae doctrine is in favor of naturalized citizens in Nepal getting key constitutional positions. This will increase the flow of Indian citizens from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh into Nepal seeking citizenship. Already, a big chunk of Indian population in the towns and villages adjoining Nepal have bought or acquired Nepali citizenships. This process will gradually lead to a demographic shift in Nepal, akin to Fiji. Some naturalized citizenship holders in Nepal have already become members of parliament, ministers and central committee members of major political parties.
The recent constitutional amendments will allow the population in Tarai-Madhesh to increase rapidly in the next 10-20 years. The amendments will also lead to an inevitable increase in the number of Madheshi legislators in federal parliament. India will thus have an even bigger say over making and unmaking governments in Nepal.
Furthermore, the Doval-Rae doctrine wants assurance of naturalized citizenship holders (Madheshis) becoming President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of the Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly, Heads of Provinces, Speakers of Provincial Assemblies and Chiefs of security bodies.
If this is accepted by our legislators, there is a real fear that a prime minister with naturalized citizenship might then decide on uniting with India, merging with Indian states of Bihar/UP or inviting formal Indian intervention as happened in Sikkim and Bangladesh. The Doval-Rae doctrine on citizenship will thus undermine Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity as it might provide a path for the creation of Sikkim or Crimea.
The Doval-Rae doctrine is pushing for restructuring of federal boundaries under 'One Madhesh Two Province' formula in order to create an inner buffer in Tarai-Madhesh region. The Nepali constitution provides for seven provinces with north-south demarcations; it also includes an exclusive Madhesh province. But the ongoing agitation reflects that Madheshis are dissatisfied with the proposed federal structure. On closer scrutiny, their fuel for dissatisfaction seems to be directly derived from the Doval-Rae doctrine that holds that Chinese adventurism in the Himalayas is inimical to Indian interests. The fear is that Himalayas have now been penetrated by Chinese roads and rails. Furthermore, recent transit treaty with China formally ends Nepal's India-locked status and thus necessitates New Delhi contextualize Nehru doctrine to suit the contemporary geopolitical reality.
In this regard, the Doval-Rae doctrine holds that Nepal as a whole no longer acts as a strategic buffer and thus India will now need to develop Tarai-Madhesh as an inner buffer through the application of 'One Madhehs Two Provinces' model. India wants to regulate the open-border at its discretion and control illegal movements of people, Islamic terrorist activities, counterfeit of Indian currency, gold smuggling and other anti-India activities.
Furthermore, India is also interested in Tarai-Madhesh which it sees as outlet of major water resources of the Himalayas: Koshi, Karnali and Gandaki. If Doval-Rae is successful, India will dictate the policies in these two states. It will be relevant to mention here that citizenship would be long term process of acquiring full control of Nepali territory while 'One Madhesh Two Province' model will help achieve short term Indian goals in Nepal.
Thereby, even if Chinese start operating rail and roadways vis-à-vis Nepali territory, it would not affect India if Doval-Rae doctrine succeeded in restructuring federal boundaries under 'One Madhesh Two Province' as Delhi would then have full control over security, politics and governance in Nepal.
India under BJP also wants to see Nepal reestablish itself as the only Hindu kingdom in the world. It had time and again asked Nepali leaders to rethink secularism during the constitution drafting process. The ideology of Hindutva is manifest in every sector of current Indian life, more so under the leadership of Modi. BJP's wings—Vishwa Hindu Parishad (cultural mobilization wing) and Bajrang Dal (para-military wing) have managed to make a considerable dent on India's secular fabric and cultural diversity.
When the Constitution of Nepal was promulgated, the reaction of the aforementioned groups was predictably negative. They were unhappy with the declaration of Nepal as a secular state. The Nepali wings of Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal appear to be strengthening and they are looking to more and more influence Nepal's society, culture and politics. Their entrenchment within the Nepali politics cannot be ignored.
They can play a big role in reestablishing Nepal as a Hindu State. Since secularism was provisioned without giving sovereign people of Nepal an option to decide, this provides a space for application of Doval-Rae doctrine. The Doval-Rae doctrine aims to work around these conflicts of interests. The best option for Nepal in this scenario would be to settle this issue through a referendum, which will also be the most democratic option.
Doval-Rae coercion-driven diplomacy used the 'blockade' as a means to achieve India's foreign policy goals in Nepal. The subsequent constitutional amendment was one of the successes of this doctrine. However, it had larger implications in Nepal-India relations, most notably a tangible rise in anti-India sentiments in Nepal and Nepal's growing tilt towards China. It is upon the current and future regimes in Kathmandu to ensure that the Doval-Rae doctrine is not implemented in Nepal in its entirety. That in the end is the only way to protect Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The author is an Assistant Professor at Kathmandu School of Law and co-editor of the book "Geo-Strategic Challenges to Nepal's Foreign Policy and Way Forward" (2015)