Unbreakable Nepal-India Relationship: Why Cracks Occur?

Published On: June 30, 2021 01:43 PM NPT By: Prakash Pokhrel

Nepal is an independent and sovereign nation and can manage its own internal affairs. However, from time to time, complaints are heard that India has directly interfered in Nepal's internal affairs.

Nepal's recent political developments have created a situation in which people have started to relook at the historical relationship between Nepal and India, while questioning India's unnatural interference in Nepal. Opposition parties filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court against the move of the prime minister and the president to dissolve parliament after the government lost a vote of confidence. The house was dissolved despite the possibility of forming an alternative government. The Nepali people believe that there is a geopolitical impact behind the creation of this situation in which India is a significant player.

Despite the linguistic, marital, religious and cultural ties between India and Nepal at the grassroots, especially since the promulgation of the Republican Constitution in Nepal, political issues and border disputes have been creating rifts in relations between the two countries. Officially, diplomatic relations between Nepal and India were established only on June 13, 1947. Long before that, on March 3, 1816, diplomatic relations of Nepal were first established with the United Kingdom, and on April 25, 1947, diplomatic relations were also established with the United States. However, it cannot be denied that Nepal's relations with India have been strong for centuries. Going through various ups and downs, Nepal and India still have a special relationship compared to other countries. It is not uncommon for rifts to arise between the two countries. It is a well-known fact that there are tensions between the two countries due to blockades, border disputes, and unauthorized entries of Indian army and police personnel across the border into Nepal from time to time and so on. There is a saying, "Husbands and wives fight at straw fire." Nepal-India relations are also like a quarrel between a husband and a wife.

The religious, social and cultural similarities between the two countries have made the relationship special. Nepal and India have a bread-and-butter relationship, which is made public by the heads of government and the general public of both the countries. The history of King Ram of Ayodhya marrying a Nepali daughter Janaki also confirms the centuries-old relationship between the two countries.

Geographically, most of the smooth open borders in the east, west and south make it easy for people, goods and services to cross, and this relationship is getting stronger at the grassroots.

There are similarities even in the system of governance adopted by both the countries. Currently, both countries have adopted a federal system of governance, multi-party competitive parliamentary system of government, and the two countries have been exchanging assistance and exchanging experiences to make governance effective.

There are many similarities in the foreign policies of Nepal and India. In the past, during the Cold War, when many countries of the world were divided into two poles, both Nepal and India had adopted a policy of non-alignment between the two poles. The then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the five founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Nepal is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. Similarly, the two countries have been pursuing the policy of Panchsheel and have shared similar views in international forums, including the United Nations.

India is a major country not only in Nepal's socio-economic development, but also in providing search, rescue, relief and various humanitarian assistance during disasters. Not only during the earthquake of 2015, but also in every disaster and crisis, has India been a leading country in search, rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts in Nepal. More than 32,000 Nepalis are serving in the Indian Gurkha Army, while more than 125,000 ex-Gurkha soldiers and other government retirees are receiving pensions annually. Undergraduate, postgraduate, PhD scholarships are being provided to 3,000 Nepali students annually. Similarly, India has been providing significant assistance to the Nepal Army.

According to last year's trade data between the two countries, Nepal's total foreign trade through imports and exports during the year was about Rs 1.3 trillion, of which Rs 800 billion was with India.

During the same period, Nepal's total export was worth Rs 97 billion out of which exports worth Rs 70 billion were made to India. The Nepali market has made a significant contribution to India's economy. Nepal and India seem to have much common potential for development and prosperity. Nepal's tourism industry has supported India and India's tourism industry has supported Nepal's tourism industry.

Nepal is an independent and sovereign nation and can manage its own internal affairs. However, from time to time, complaints are heard that India has directly interfered in Nepal's internal affairs. The Nepali people understand that India is taking undue interest not only in the formation and dissolution of the government, but also in the appointment of the Chief Secretary and the chiefs of the security forces.

It is also believed that the Indian attempt to micro-manage things in Nepal has shaped Nepal's attitude toward India to become more negative than positive, which has led to increasing bitterness in the relations between Nepal and India.

The Nepali people are also of the view that India has been pursuing a strategy of ‘capturing’ Nepal's water resources. As a sovereign country, Nepal has always been skeptical of exchanging assistance with China, Pakistan and other countries. There is a tendency of the Pakistani and Chinese diplomats and civilians to suspect that India spies on them when they visit the border areas. Even when India tries to help Nepal in good faith, there is a tendency to suspect that there is some vested interest. Illegal trade and increasing smuggling are also weakening relations between the two countries.

It is said that we can change everything but our neighbors. Therefore, all we can do is reduce mutual mistrust and hostility and increase mutual trust. Therefore, we have no choice but to make the relationship effective by adopting all measures.

India's interference in Nepal's internal affairs is unacceptable, but Indian diplomats say most Nepali politicians prioritize India's role. The general public in Nepal thinks that the recent political developments in Nepal are a result of Indian influence. India's attempt to maintain close ties with the communist forces, which have lost public trust, has raised fears among Nepal's democratic forces. India's strategy may be to weaken the communist powers in line with the objective of preventing Chinese domination in Nepal, but India should not be unaware of the history of communists in Nepal. It is important for India to pay attention to the fact that their deeds and statements are different. Peace and stability can be maintained in Nepal only if a democratic parliamentary system is maintained here.

There is no doubt that instability in Nepal will have a direct impact on India. As a neighboring country, the Nepali people have always been and will continue to be supportive of India's assistance, suggestions and advice, but India's direct interference in domestic politics will never be acceptable. Neighbors cannot be changed. But the relationships with the neighbors can be changed. Disputes with Nepal and India should be resolved through diplomacy and the relationship should be further strengthened by keeping our national interest at the center. It is the duty of the heads of government and political parties to respect the sentiments of the people of both the countries. Both countries should be able to respect each other's nationalities, geographical integrity, sovereignty and independence. Let's walk the path of prosperity by shaking hands, not by increasing animosity between the two countries.


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