Foreign Affairs

What is it about India’s behavior that Nepalis dislike?

The kind of unique relationship Nepal and India enjoy can hardly be found in other parts of the globe. The two countries which share an open border (around 1700 kms long) are not only deeply intertwined historically, culturally, religiously, and politically but also hundreds of thousands of citizens have familial ties across the border. But the history did not always present us with the case of such intimate relation. Time and again, the bilateral relationship has witnessed a rocky ride – sometimes even creating a situation which takes a long time to recover and restore the relationship of warmth, affinity, and mutual trust. Similar situation has arisen with the recent promulgation of much-awaited constitution in Nepal, and India’s discontent over it. India which is openly supporting the agitating parties of southern Nepal has imposed an embargo–something that India denies.¬†Landlocked Nepal depends on Indian routes for almost all of its imports from baby foods to buses, salt to luxury items, and petroleum products to materials for hospital emergencies. India had often been credited of playing crucial role in establishing and supporting the democratic regimes in Nepal. Though intertwined so deeply, what aspects of India hurt Nepalis, and what things about India most of the Nepalis dislike? Here are a few points:

1. ‘Big brother’ attitude:
This perception is quite pervasive amongst many Nepalis. India is presumed to have been using its muscular diplomacy to pressurize Nepali actors to act in its favor. The latest ‘blockade’ episode has been described by many as yet another incident of that attitude.

2.Unequal treaties
There is quite a long list of bilateral treaties which Nepali side describe as unequal. Starting from the widely talked 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, the list includes the Gandak, Koshi and Mahakali water treaties among others which, many think, deprive Nepal of its proper water-share. A part of the anger is also aimed at the Nepali political leadership for ‘bowing down to India’s terms’.

3.Disrespect for sovereignty
Many think that India always wants Kathmandu to consult with Delhi over issues it deems crucial, and even the domestic ones. India’s discontent over the newly promulgated constitution endorsed by almost 90 percent of elected lawmakers, did not go down well with many Nepalis.

4. Ill treatment at border entry points
There are lots of complaints about home-bound Nepali migrant workers being meted out ill-treatment by the personnel of Indian border security SSB. Despite commitment of reforms from Indian Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Kathmandu last year(2014), the problem continues.

5.Encroachment of border
The encroachment of Nepali land from the Indian side are one of the major irritants. Though dispute seems to exist only in a few bordering areas, they are enough to cause problems in bilateral relationship. For instance, India has encroached the strategic areas like Kalapani and Lipulek which fall under Nepali territory.

6. Insensitive Indian media
Indian news media especially the televisions are widely perceived in Nepal as the instruments of sensationalism and Indian jingoism. Many are of the opinions that most of the Indian media ‘do not care about the concerns and facts related to the neighborhood’, and are rather ‘insensitive towards the sentiments of smaller neighbors’. The recent episode of #GohomeIndianmedia trending in Twitter decrying the way Indian media handled the coverage of the devastating earthquake is an example.

7.Love-hate relationship:
Nepalis love a lot of things about India ranging from the Hindu pilgrimage sites to Bollywood movies and Indian food. When something negative is said about Nepal, that hurts Nepali sentiments, and people criticize India and raise objections– such as Hrithik Roshan’s alleged remarks that led to riots in parts of Nepal in 2000.

8. India’s ‘suspicion’ of Chinese inroads in Nepal
Many believe that India’s concerns about ‘increasing Chinese influence’ in Nepal is blown out of proportion. Most Nepalis think that no country could be as close to Nepal as India given the huge commonalities. But they are not happy with Delhi ‘for not understanding the difficult situation a small country like Nepal faces while striking a balance between the two rising powers’.

This piece I wrote in the wake of India’s ‘unofficial blockade’ created huge interest among wider audience. This story continued to top the list of the ‘most read’ for few days beginning from the day it was posted.¬†

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