Rebooting India-Nepal Ties

  • With global geopolitics on the boil, and the Hindi-Chini relationship in free fall, it should be in India’s interest to secure its own neighbourhood, and that can only be through letting national politics and governance of the smaller neighbours evolve without interference.
Impediments in India-Nepal relationship
  • Although India played a valued role in ending the Maoist insurgency in 2006, but the period thereafter was marked by escalating micro-meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs.
  • In Constitution-writing, there were attempts to define the new provincial boundaries according to Indian dictates. Moreover, India ‘noted’ rather than welcomed the Constitution.
  • The presence of India’s heavy hand contributed in numerous ways to distort the consensual governance needed in transitional times.
  • After the April 2015 Great Earthquake, Nepal was slapped with the punitive Blockade.
  • Indian strategists seeking the construction of high dams and deep reservoirs on Nepal’s rivers for flood control, navigation, urban use and irrigation in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh might make the federation in Kathmandu more amenable.
  • A ‘use and throw’ policy of India by which the Madhesbaadi leaders were made to stand against local government elections, followed by a volte-face of the Indian Embassy urging them to join.
  • The Great Blockade forced the Kathmandu political leadership to reach out to Beijing and sign a slew of trade, transit and infrastructural agreements with it.
Pending cases
  • An important issue is the open border itself. While it is Nepal’s Left that has traditionally demanded restrictions on the border, the call now rises from the Indian security establishment.
  • A permanent bilateral mechanism is required to save the plains population of Nepal from suffering from massive floods that have also affected downstream areas across the border.
  • The Kosi Barrage poses a threat due to siltation which has raised the riverbed. Instead of demanding high dams in Nepal alternatives such as redistribution of waters into various older channels of the Kosi in Bihar should be studied.
  • The rights of migrant Indian labour in Nepal and Nepali labour in India is a topic that rarely comes up.
  • We need to study the effect of demonetization and implementation of Goods and Services Tax on Nepal.
  • There are border disputes pending between the two countries — at Susta, Kalapani and the ‘tri-junction’ of Lipulekh — but Kathmandu has been timid in raising these matters.
  • Indian government directive that it will not allow import of electricity other than from power companies with more than 51% Indian equity came as a blow to Nepal’s plan to sell electricity to India after the completion of Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line.
  • From the Kathmandu perspective, politically micromanaging Nepal could not have but backfired. India needs to take cue from the experience and distance itself from micro-meddling in Nepal’s internal affairs.
  • With the self-assurance that comes from Nepal moving towards normalcy under its new Constitution, and with India seemingly changing gears on its Nepal policy, one hopes for a threshold of maturity in relations between South Asia’s oldest nation-state and its largest democracy.



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