Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India must engage with Nepal-without intervening


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Paper 2- Engage with Nepal without intervening

The article suggests recalibration of India’s approach towards political turmoil in Nepal.

Nepal in political crisis

  • For the second time in weeks, Prime Minister K P Oli has persuaded President Bidya Devi Bhandari to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.
  • That is, unless the Supreme Court decides to declare the dissolution of parliament as unconstitutional, as it had done in the recent past.
  • The current dissolution has been challenged in the court by five political parties.

Medhesi demand fulfilled

  • Prime Minister Oli has also delivered on the longstanding Madhesi demand to reverse a constitutional provision which denied citizenship to children born of Nepali mothers who had foreign husbands.
  • The widespread unrest in the Terai adjoining India in 2015 was triggered by this attempt to deny equal rights to the Madhesi population.
  • This provision had directly targeted the Madhesi population, which has close kinship and marital ties across the border with India.
  • While this provision has now been removed through a presidential ordinance, it could well be reversed in future by Nepali political parties dominated by the higher caste.

Steps India needs to take

  • Political uncertainty in a neighbouring country is never good news for India, particularly in Nepal with whom we share a long and open border.
  • The Indian government has maintained a studied silence on the current political developments in Nepal and this may be the right thing to do.
  • But this silence should not imply the lack of a proper assessment of the political situation in Nepal and what would serve the interests of India best.
  • Following are the steps India need to take:

1) India should declare it does not support the revival of monarchy

  •  The abolition of the monarchy is a net gain for India and the government must firmly and unambiguously declare that it does not support the revival of the monarchy, which has already been rejected by its people.
  • India should declare its unconditional support to Nepal’s republican democracy.

2) Remain engaged with Nepal

  • India should remain fully engaged with Nepal at all levels and across the political spectrum.
  • The safeguarding of India’s vital interests demands such sustained engagement.
  • A hands-off policy will only create space for other external influences, some of which, like China, may prove to be hostile.
  • However, engagement must dispense with the recurrent tendency to label Nepali political leaders as friends or enemies.
  • India should advocate policies rather than persons.

3) Recognise the role of Madhesi population

  • In India’s engagement with Nepal, the Terai belt and its large Madhesi population plays a critical and indispensable role.
  • In an effort to win over the Kathmandu political and social elite, one should be careful not to neglect citizens living in the plains.
  • Our engagement with Nepal must find an important place for Nepali citizens who are our immediate neighbours and act as a kinship, cultural and religious bridge between our two countries.

4) Appreciate people-to-people link

  • India needs to appreciate that the people-to-people links between our two countries have an unmatched density and no other country, including China, enjoys this asset.
  • The challenge to our Nepal policy lies in leveraging this precious asset to ensure a stable and mutually-productive state-to-state relationship.
  • India has every reason to approach its relations with Nepal with confidence and assurance.

Consider the question “What are the factors that make India-Nepal relationship special? What are the recent challenges impacting this special relationship? ” 


The safeguarding of India’s vital interests demands India’s engagement with Nepal without intervening in its politics. A hands-off policy will only create space for other external influences.

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3 years ago

“1) India should declare it does not support the revival of democracy” – Please do the correction. It should be “monarchy” in place of “democracy”.


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