A section of the Indian intelligentsia sees China in everything that happens in Nepal. Apparently, any mention of China, for them, is like showing a red rag to a bull.
The Limpiadhura dispute between Nepal and India seems to be deepening. Amid this scenario, a section of the Indian media is going berserk. Feeding this madness are some livid members of the Indian intelligentsia. Our own lot is also trying to catch up.
Just a few days ago, an Indian TV channel made unwelcome remarks against Manisha Koirala. It accused the renowned actor of siding with China while relying on India for livelihood. It conveniently forgot that lakhs of Indians also rely on Nepal for their livelihood. It forgot that Indian workers working in Nepal send home around 3 billion rupees out of 8 billion rupee remittance that Nepalis send from around the world. The channel forgot that rivers originating in Nepal are a lifeline for India, especially big and populous states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The renowned actor was one of the sane voices calling for peaceful resolution of this dispute. All she had said was that Nepal, India and China should resolve this dispute through talks.
The mention of China made the Indian TV channel mad. That madness spread like wildfire with hawkish voices joining in.
Then came the anchor of another TV channel, who, during an interview, accused a Nepali Congress leader of acting as a puppet of the Chinese. What's more, he accused Nepal of acting as a rentier state of China. At the same program, hawkish voices labeled the KP Oli government a Chinese puppet. They called for removal of what they called the puppet government by using the Nepali Congress. Surprisingly, the main opposition party of Nepal, to the best of my knowledge, has not objected to these remarks.
What gave the TV anchor the power to make objectionable remarks against Nepal? What gave him the power to make defamatory remarks against a member of Nepal's Parliament, a representative of the sovereign Nepali people? And what gives India the power to unseat an elected government of a neighboring country? Are all these hawks above the law? Above all, is this how the world's largest democracy operates in the immediate neighborhood? If so, is it not one of the biggest mockeries of democracy?
It is clear that a section of the Indian intelligentsia sees China in everything that happens in Nepal. Apparently, any mention of China is like showing a red rag to a bull.
Members of the Indian intelligentsia easily forget that Nepal is in an unenviable position vis-à-vis ties with both of her neighbors. Nepal loses when the two neighbors go to war. Though no party to the war, Nepal lost the 1962 war between India and China. That incident is behind the Limpiadhura dispute.
Indian troops retreated to the Kalapani region after suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962. Later, when Nepal requested India to pull out of the Nepali territory, the latter refused to budge. By that time, India had already fortified her presence in the Kalapani-Limpiadhura region. If the Nepali state had no knowledge that the vanquished troops had come to the region, that was a smashing failure of her intelligence. If it looked the other way, that was one of the biggest follies. Countries located on geostrategic fault-lines cannot afford to make such mistakes.
Nepal suffered another breach of trust from both of her neighbors when they signed a 40-point deal to engage in bilateral trade through the Lipulek pass. Nepal has been saying that the whole of the Limpiadhura region, including Lipulek, belongs to her. The country objected to this deal and wrote to both the parties, but to little avail.
Many in Nepal see toughening of the Indian position on the Limpiadhura region as her ploy to fully capture another river system belonging to Nepal, the Mahakali river (right from her origin) as well as the vital pass joining one of China's soft spots, the Tibet. It should also be noted that Tibet is important not only because Kailash and Mansarovar are located there. It is very very important for the whole of South and Southeast Asia because major rivers like the Brahmaputra, the Indus and the Mekong originate from that region.
It should be noted that Nepal and India have differences over the origin of the Mahakali River. History shows that India has often muddied waters in Nepal, with the main objective of capturing vital river systems that originate from her Himalayas and the Tibetan region. She managed to virtually capture major river systems like the Koshi and the Gandak after providing support for political changes in Nepal and installing friendlier regimes in the 1950's.
Support for the 1990's political change yielded generous returns for her in the form of the Mahakali Treaty, among others.
Limpiadhura is not the only dispute persisting between Nepal and India. Indian encroachment is rife in almost all districts of Nepal that border India. Apart from direct encroachment through mobilization of locals with backing from security personnel in the southern plains and hilly regions, India has caused loss of farmlands through unilateral construction of water regulatory structures and high-elevation roads without bothering to follow international practices.
The government of Nepal and the Nepali media have been raising these issues for decades. Worryingly, the neighbor has not bothered to listen.
Apart from fresh wounds, Nepal has old wounds vis-à-vis relations with India, the inheritor of the British empire with which she fought a very unjust war in 1814-16. These wounds have not healed, outstanding issues have not been resolved.
In coming days, months and years, we will have to attend to these wounds, resolve outstanding issues through talks.
Let's hope that the oft-invoked historic, people-to-people and so-called special relations will guide us through in hard times like these. It's too early for us and people across the border to lose temper and go berserk, for formal talks between the two countries have not even begun.
Let truth prevail. Let justice prevail. Let peace prevail.