Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Indian clout in Nepal

By Yadav Khanal
Nepal being a landlocked country of huge geo-strategic importance, India has all through its post-independence days tried to establish its strong clout, and even hegemony, upon this country.
India's interests in Nepal became obvious the day it signed the unequal 1950 Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty. Even after signing the Treaty, India wanted to establish a deeper clout in Nepal. It was New Delhi that inspired the NC to launch the 1950 insurrection movement to overthrow the autocratic Rana regime. For an entire decade following the abolishment of the Rana regime, India meddled in Nepal's domestic politics, covertly or overtly.
This phase was erroneously believed to have come to an end in 1960 when King Mahendra took the fatal step of disbanding parliamentary system on the plea of the parties of all shades playing second fiddle to New Delhi.
But the partyless panchayat system, highly hyped up as being of a nationalist character, too, was brought to its end after 30 years by the NC through a popular uprising that was perceptibly encouraged by various Indian political quarters.
Meanwhile, even after the post-1990 uprising, various governments could not escape the coercion and persuasion from New Delhi. The NC-led government at the initial period of 1990s and the subsequent Government of the CPN-UML were also not immune from India's influence. The latter even agreed to the controversial and pro-India Mahakali River Project agreement.
In the meantime, government of Rightists parties such as that of the Rashtriya Prajatantrik Party of the pro-India Surya Bahadur Thapa also came under India's influence in one way or the other.
In between all this, the Royal Palace Massacre took place in 2001 which is also largely believed to be the outcome of King Birendra's disapproval of the duplicitous Finance Bill which was essentially purported to grant citizenship to aliens. King Birendra, his entire family and all of his nearest relatives except the family of his brother Gyanendra, who latter succeeded him, were killed in the incident. Gyanendra, who ruled for four years, was also put under pressure to quit by Indian quarters.
Prior to that, as a Kathmandu correspondent has stated in the Naya Patrika, around 4,000,000 Indian nationals were given Nepali citizenship certificates in a deceitful manner. That was at the time of the post-1990 uprising when the popular political parties led the government. Far back during the Panchayat rule, the totalitarian government also granted citizenship certificates to 1600,000 Indian nationals on the eve of the so-called National Referendum on Panchayat vs multi-party System.
After Gyanendra's renouncing of all state power, the three main political parties in the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) have repeatedly come under Indian pressures or persuasions, and India has continued its policy of influencing Nepali policies till date.
Despite its claim of practicing a non-aligned foreign policy, the Indian government has,however, departed from the tenets of that policy in its dealings with Nepal. The reason for this is not far to seek, either. For one thing, India is quite susceptible to China's close geographical link with Nepal.
New Delhi is ever watchful of what Beijing does in Nepal. It's at this point that the US sees its common interest with India in Nepal. The duo perceive their interests in keeping Nepal as far away as possible from China, thereby adversely impacting the bilateral dealing of Nepal and China. Washington is believed to have given a green signal to New Delhi to do whatever is needed to keep China and Nepal at a maximum possible distance from each other.
The other vital factor behind New Delhi's high-handed policy towards Nepal is to be traced in its efforts towards silencing the Nepali voice of criticism against India's encroachment of Nepal's territorial areas at various points all along the country's southern border. India, according to cadastral expert Buddhinarayan Shrestha, has already occupied Nepali territory at various points in the Indo-Nepal border on a mind-boggling scale. Meanwhile, India also has its interest to enhance its markets in Nepal. With over 25,000,000 population, the Himalayan country holds for Indian industries a sizeable market of their own.
It is out of such considerations that the Indian government wants to have its permanent influence over Nepal. And to further its interest, India has been time and again pulling its strings on the two political parties, the NC and the CPN-UML.
Apart from lending a moral support to Rightist parties like the NPP of Surya Bahadur Thapa, New Delhi has also assisted the extreme Left force like the CPN-Maoist. India resorts to the practice of lending support to Nepal's political parties or withdrawing from it as and when it suits its hegemonistic policy towards Nepal.
Worse yet, New Delhi has also been handling various sectors of ethnic Madhesi parties of tropical Tarai belt to further India's design against Nepal. The Madhesi parties operating under various banners are being manipulated by various interested quarters in New Delhi as well as those from elsewhere in India.