Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] Next Door Nepal: Virtues of soft powerop-ed snap


Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: European Union, Lumbini (relation with Buddhism)

Mains level: Importance of Nepal for India


India-Nepal relations under stress

  1. A major thread that has linked India and Nepal for centuries is under stress
  2. Some refer to it as religious, but the ties that link people to people in the two countries have a strong civilizational and cultural underpinning
  3. This “soft diplomacy” is increasingly weakening

China getting advantage

  1. China seems to have picked up a thread that India abandoned when it began to pursue a radical path in Nepal from 2006
  2. India’s preference for radical political agendas have undermined, and even demolished, the institutions that facilitated cultural linkages between the two countries
  3. This has contributed to the distrust between Kathmandu and New Delhi

What India did?

  1. India, with the support of the European Union, literally dictated Nepal’s political course from 2006
  2. Together, they blocked the efforts of a large but disorganized section of the Nepali populace
  3. People of Nepal wanted contentious issues like the shift from a monarchy to a republic and the adoption of secularism as state credo instead of continuing as a Hindu state to be settled through debate, and if necessary a referendum
  4. India aligned with the Maoists who were waging war against the state and asked its long-term ally, the Nepali Congress to support the Maoists

China leveraging Buddhism

  1. Buddhism has immensely contributed in making Hindu-majority Nepal respectful towards all religions
  2. Hinduism and Buddhism have coexisted in harmony
  3. China’s keen interest to develop Lumbini and build a railway line to Sigatse in Tibet via Kerung is an attempt on the part of Beijing to leverage soft power in bilateral relations
  4. China recognises that Buddhism can be a binding thread between the two countries

Anti-India sentiment in Nepal

  1. The current anti-India sentiment in Nepal, which will also reflect in the mandate, is to a large part due to the 2015 economic blockade the Modi government imposed on Nepal
  2. Nepal had yet to recover from a devastating earthquake
  3. K.P. Oli, then the prime minister, stood up to India and turned to China for help

Way forward

  1. India is unclear about how to repair the damage diplomacy has done to its soft power and the resultant confusion in the bilateral relations
  2. It should try to restore the ties with focus on cultural and religious linkages

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