Nepal was gifted away by the Congress Government and its foreign policy establishment to the Chinese orbit of influence a few years back by facilitating the Nepalese Maoists to establish themselves on Nepal’s political firmament. India’s misperceived policies on Nepal have in its wake not been able to achieve political stability nor ensure an India-friendly Nepal as a strategic asset for India’s national security. What the Nepalese Maoists could not achieve in their decade-long insurgency against the established order, India gifted it on a plate to the Nepalese Maoists. The Nepalese Maoists have terrorized Nepal and the picture obtainable today is where a fairly large number of Nepalese in Nepal’s heartland Nepal long for return of the Nepalese Monarchy. India needs to review its Nepal policies to win over the support of the Nepalese public and thereby reclaim Nepal as an India -friendly State.
Nepal’s geostrategic location as an extended buffer –state interposed between the plains of Northern India and China-Occupied Tibet is of great significance for India’s national security. Also significant was the fact that Nepal was the only Hindu kingdom in the world. Despite these significant attributes, the Congress Government gifted away Nepal to the Chinese orbit of influence a couple of years back by facilitating the Nepalese Maoists to gain political legitimacy and gain political power in Katmandu. All this arose from misperceived readings of the Nepalese political scene by India’s foreign establishment and a seemingly misplaced animus against the Nepalese Monarch. India needs to revise its policy perceptions on Nepal as all indicators point to a fact that India’s policy initiatives to accord political legitimacy to Nepalese Maoists has been an utter failure. Strategic and national security imperatives dictate that Nepal must be reclaimed as a stable and India-friendly State.
In the run-up to the displacement of the Nepalese Monarch the dangers of bringing China as a state adversarial to India on the doorsteps of India’s Uttar Pradesh and Bihar borders were being pointed out by me in these Columns. China today stands poised on the doorsteps of the Gangetic Plains and busy with intelligence activities as the recent arrest of three Chinese nationals would indicate.
There are any numbers of Nepal-specialists within India from the Indian Foreign Service and the academia and especially from the Jawaharlal Nehru University where the top leaders of the Nepalese Maoists studied and possibly were contemporaries of some of India’s Leftist leaders. Curiously this extended Nepal-resource within India has muddled the readings on Nepal of the foreign policy establishment, rather than being successful in assisting in the emergence of an India-friendly Nepal.
The Nepalese media abounds with articles and features expressing resentment against India’s Nepal policies. Obviously something is amiss with India’s Nepal policies which generate such anti-Indian sentiments. Some of this resentment may be attributed to the syndrome of a small neighbor’s uncertainties, resentment and fears of a bigger neighbor. But then the bigger neighbor has a bigger onus to work towards allaying the fears and resentment of the smaller neighbor.
Another resentment that periodically surfaces is that India adopts colonial-style policies towards Nepal and there is certain arrogance in India’s approaches. Such sentiments would obviously require adoption of greater sensitivities by the Indian policy establishment in handling Nepal.
The Indian policy establishment cannot adopt resentfulness towards Nepal just because some in Nepal’s policy establishment may be more inclined towards China. This should be expected as a normal phenomenon and occurrence. Contrarily, the Indian policy establishment should view Nepal as a challenge to their foreign policy management skills and capabilities and come out with imaginative and ingenuous policies that could create positive attitudes in the Nepalese masses towards India. India’s soft power assets should come into greater play.
Nepal needs to be viewed as an indispensable strategic asset for India’s national security and therefore all Indian policies should be underwritten by this strategic imperative. Nepal needs to be reclaimed as an India-friendly State.