Indian expansionism in Nepal and the rebuttal from Nepalese – GNP


Masroor Ahmad

Denoting a caveat over the expansionist agenda of India, Nepali Congress lawmaker Pradip Giri while making a statement on Kashmir in the Nepali Parliament hinted that India can make Nepal as the second Sikkim after it has gulped Kashmir. Giri admitted that Kashmir had been “consumed” by the Indian establishment. Now nothing remains to add. India may be world’s biggest democracy, but the way Article 370 has been repealed makes it inherently an autocratic state

Nepal has been regarded as an independent and sovereign country, from the ancient time to date. For thousands of years, the boundary of Nepal is surrounded by India to the three sides- south, east, and west and by China to the north. India and Nepal share a 1,800km open border. India and Nepal bear a complex nature of relationship, which is not oriented of political factors alone but cover the entire gamut of socio-cultural and economic issues. Despite the differences in size, population, resources and economy there are numerous causes which bring India and Nepal close to each other and also pull them apart.

Indian hostility to its neighbor is not a new thing rather all the neighboring countries have been a victim of Indian’s foul play and ambitions in the region. Recently, widespread demonstrations against the Indian infiltration inside Nepalese territory erupted in Kathmandu while dozens of people were arrested for demonstrating close to India’s embassy in Kathmandu. Nepal has a principle proviso against India’s inauguration of a Himalayan link road built in a disputed territory which falls at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China.

All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) members and leaders demonstrating demanded the Nepalese government to take steps to cease the southern neighbour from utilizing the highway constructed via Nepali territory. Nepalese accuse India of interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs and taking Nepal for granted. The hashtag #backoffindia was trending on Twitter in Nepal during the weekend. Indian oil trucks stopped crossing into Nepal because of protests in the south, prompting authorities to try to limit the use of cars and save fuel.

This is not the first time, the same hashtag had gained widespread traction in 2015, when landlocked Nepal accused India of imposing a border blockade as the Himalayan nation recovered from two devastating earthquakes. The intensity of the protests may be gauged from the series of events that in central Kathmandu they were carrying an effigy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and shouted: “Down with Indian expansionism! Down with Modi!” the demonstrators were demanding India to stop interfering in Nepal’s internal issues.

The Lipulekh Pass is claimed by Nepal based on an 1816 treaty it entered with the British colonial rulers to define its western border with India. In a lengthy statement, Nepal’s foreign ministry reminded that Nepal claims all territories east of Mahakali river as per the 1816 Sugauli Treaty. In light of this Nepal has called upon India to refrain from carrying out any activity inside its territory. Kathmandu also claims the highly strategic areas of Limpiyadhura and Kalapani, although Indian troops have been deployed there since New Delhi fought a war with China in 1962. Lokraj Baral, former Nepali diplomat, explains that according to the Treaty of Sugauli, Kali river was agreed as the demarcation line for the boundary between India and Nepal.

India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh on Friday inaugurated the 80-kilometre (50-mile) Lipulekh road, which will serve as the shortest route between capital New Delhi and Kailash-Mansarovar, a revered Hindu pilgrimage site in the Tibetan plateau. The link road via Lipulekh Himalayan Pass is also considered one of the shortest and most feasible trade routes between India and China. Nepal views the alleged incursions as a stark example of bullying by its much larger neighbour.

Nepal’s foreign ministry summoned the Indian ambassador whereas Nepalese opposition leaders immediately raised the pitch, asking for the government to clear its public stance. Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali conveyed the government of Nepal’s position on boundary issues to Ambassador of India to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra and handed over a diplomatic note in this regard. Nepal’s foreign ministry condemned India’s "unilateral act” that "runs against the understanding reached between the two countries … that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiations. The Government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the ‘inauguration’ yesterday by India of ‘Link Road’ connecting to Lipulekh (Nepal), which passes through Nepali territory,” Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement

In 2015, the Kathmandu also objected to an agreement between India and China to include the Lipulekh Pass as a bilateral trade route without Nepal’s consent. This entire episode depicts maltreatment of India towards its weak neighbours.

Nepali people have a reputation for honesty, loyalty and bravery, which has led to them serving as legendary Gurkha warriors but being a landlocked country it depends on diplomacy for national defence. It maintains a policy of neutrality between its neighbours. Tourism is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in Nepal, employing more than a million people and contributing 7.9% of the total GDP. Nepal should take the matter to the platform of SAARC and UN otherwise India will continue to take it for granted. The rebuttal of Nepalese people against the Indian penetration reflects that they are valiant people and will not allow India to challenge their sovereignty.