Monday, January 25, 2010

As India Celebrates its 61st Republic Day...

Ambassador Sood, in his Republic Day message, has underlined "the special, civilizational and fraternal" relationship which Nepal shares with India. Let's take him up on this declaration. We do have close cultural and economic ties. Hinduism is another link between the two countries, no matter how shrilly India harps on its secularism. Almost half a million Nepalis serve in the Gurkha regiments of the Indian Army; and many more Nepalis find employment south of the border. Our land-locked status makes Calcutta the closest port and we are surrounded on three sides by India. We receive the larges amount of development assistance also from India. Indian tourists also constitute the largest number of foreign tourists. Oh yes, there is no doubt of the "special" Nepal/India relationship.

But as India celebrates 26th January as the date decided upon by the 1930 Indian National Congress to mark complete self-rule, it would be appropriate also for it to keep in mind that self-rule is something that all its neighbours also appreciate. As the regional power in South Asia, the Indian government often forgets how it must have felt to be ruled by others. Whether one likes it or not, the political destiny of Nepal since the middle of the 20th century has been formulated in Delhi. King Tribhuvan took asylum in the Indian Embassy and flew to Delhi from where the Rana regime was taken down. Much more recently, the 12-point agreement between the seven political parties and the Maoists was reached in New Delhi, facilitated by the Indian government.

Readers may take the above two examples as benevolent political help from the Indian government at the request of Nepali political leaders. King Tribhuvan and 1950 was certainly that. The 12-point agreement in 2005 was not. India (and this term refers to the government of India not its people) cuddled the Maoist leaders during their insurgency, providing them safe haven, and this after branding them "Terrorists". Occasionally, it arrested a few of the second-rung leaders to salve its conscience. But by the end of 2005, it had decided to dislodge the monarchy - the only Nepali institution that was and remains truly nationalist. So it provided its "good offices" for the Maoists to come talk to the other Nepali political parties and form the clique that unconstitutionally removed the monarchy. In the process, the clique also made Nepal secular and declared it federal.

All of the above is an old tale, know to all. Anti-Indian feelings always simmer below the surface here in Nepal. Years ago, it took an Indian film star's apparently misquoted statement to start riots here. The "special" relationship between the two countries is unequal, no doubt. That may be expected given the disparity in size and economic and military strength. But when one country dictates the political destiny of another, that is unacceptable. This phenomenon has a name - "neo-colonialism". If India is to live its claim to be the largest democracy in the world, let it also behave democratically with its neighbours. During the past two years, 400,000 Indians in the border area have received Nepali citizenship. The Nepali border has been encroached upon by India in numerous places. Indian political leaders, especially of the communist variety, treat Nepal as a last-stand Marxist experiment. The Indian Ambassador is viewed by many as the de facto Governor General of India in Nepal.

Why this sorry state of affairs? The tone above may seem to blame India. Disregard the tone. It is Nepali political leaders who allow Indian hegemony over Nepal. Out of pure self-interest, political and financial, they have swallowed nationalism and embraced lackeyism. And these leaders come from the full spectrum of political parties. The last three years have clearly shown that our leaders do not care a whit for the Nepali people. The name of the game is to stay in power. These power-crazed megalomaniacs play the game endlessly.

To end the above random, almost rambling you might say, thoughts, there is one thing though that must be kept in mind. It is not smart to mouth anti-Indian slogans and berate India at every opportunity. Nepal does not have that luxury. Rather, we must assure India that its interests will not be ignored by Nepal, except when those interests clash directly with Nepal's. India, in turn, really must not try and bully its smaller neighbours like kids in a school yard.

Happy Republic Day to the people of India!


Akash Bhairab said...

Nice summary on this day. Your last paragraph says it all and is brimming with wisdom ( "vivek" in Sanskrit, the latter another cherished heritage we share). Jai hos

Govind said...

This reads like an editorial in a newspaper-well written and educational.
We will never get the respect from India until we sort out our problems ourselves and thrive as a nation and not rush to N Delhi whenever a crisis develops at home.

Subodh said...

It will be interesting to see how the history books will look upon this era one hundred years hence.
Will India unravel like the erstwhile Soviet Union to create a Greater Nepal or will Nepal be divided between the two giants. We wont be here though!