Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Breakthrough in Nepal's Madhesi Crisis

Article first published in +ABPLIVE Read here

A former Indian Ambassador to Nepal  – who had also been a High Commissioner in Bangladesh – told me once, he found it much easier to operate in Dhaka than in Kathmandu because there he didn’t have to contend with the “feudacracy” in India, who constantly try to meddle in Nepal’s affairs. By “feudacracy” he meant – the clique of erstwhile “Rajas and Maharajas” in Indian politics (especially in the Congress) who have links with Nepal by marriage. I suspect if asked now he would have also added “media-cracy”  – the dozens of op-ed writers who know what the Indian government should do in Nepal – more than South-Block and the Intelligence agencies combined.  It’s no coincidence many of them are alumni of JNU (“Marxo-cracy”).

India baiting and playing the “China Card” are the favourite pastime of the Kathmandu elite – Nepal’s version of Lutyens’ and, therefore, easily resonates  in the India International Centre circuit (which is where visiting Nepali politicians and intellectuals usually put up – unless they are state guests, when they enjoy Indian hospitality at one of the 5 star hotels). Burning effigies of Indian Prime Ministers and Ambassadors are akin to unseasonal mini-Diwali in the valley. In the current vitiated political atmosphere – one area  Modi critics were slightly short of pegs to hang him was Foreign Policy (except for his frequent foreign sojourns).  For this, the Nepal Crisis came in handy. Blame was equally apportioned between the NSA and Foreign Secretary, who it was alleged were too busy arranging the foreign trips of the PM and took their eyes off goings-on in the immediate neighbourhood.

Historically, it has been seen in case of tension with Nepal – usually the sleuths prevail over the diplomats. This is, perhaps, one instance when both establishments worked in tandem with Sushma Swaraj’s quiet backstage diplomacy. They all stuck to strategy – ignoring both political and media pressure. Gradually voices of reason started surfacing even in Nepal – just as Kathmandu high-society got busy with their winter lunches and or took off for holidays to more comfortable climes abroad and the new political top brass (Nepal has 6 Deputy PM’s) got over the initial euphoria and began to understand the futility of posturing.

It is common knowledge that the people in the valley look down upon the Madhesis with disdain and a touch of contempt – considering them to be encroachers and “half-Indians”. But, yet Nepal knows without Madhes, it can’t be a viable economic and political entity (as most industry and agriculture is concentrated in the plains, which also serves to connect different regions of the hilly terrain, which are otherwise not easily accessible). While the bogey of “Sikkimisation” of Nepal by India is routinely raised – in their hearts the wise Nepali understands the risks of “Tibetisation” are greater – if they were indulge in unmindful flirting with China.   Finally, it would be naive of them to believe India (and, indeed, other international interests) would remain aloof to what’s happening in this very strategic stretch of land.

Relations between Nepal and India will always remain “complicated”. It is said Nepalis love everything Indian except Indians.  While India can’t afford to treat Nepal as another state of India, Nepal too can’t forget the 2 countries are joined at the hips and can’t do without each other – sibling sentimentality.

Parallels are drawn with another alleged “blockade” in the late 80s – which people simplistically believe was a consequence of the spouse of a late Minister not being allowed entry in Pashupatinath Temple. This time around it was a game of ‘brinkmanship’ of who blinks first. Probably, there would have been a much earlier resolution of the impasse – had it not been such a young government with a motley leadership at the helm still trying to find their equilibrium. India did well to stay its course – with an outcome that will hopefully be remembered in the long run in a more positive light  – if not by all – a large section of Nepali people.

Also Read: It's not India Vs Nepal but Kathmandu Elite Vs Madhesis (Click here

                 Nepal isn't the most beautiful state of India (Click here)