Q) “Territorial dispute between India and Nepal is merely a symptom of the structural changes of the bilateral relationship” Discuss?
India and Nepal share a unique relationship of friendship and cooperation characterized by open borders and deep-rooted people-to-people contacts of kinship and culture. Nepal lies in the middle of India’s ‘Himalayan frontiers’, and along with Bhutan, it acts as northern ‘borderland’ and acts as buffer states between India and China.
- The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between both the countries is being aparted due to recent developments in politics of Nepal, growing Nepali nationalism which became essentially anti-Indian in nature.
- Recently, the Nepal government referring to the Treaty of Sugauli, 1816, took a decision to adopt a new political map that claims Indian Territory of Lipulekh, Kalapani and other areas, as a part of Nepal.
- These developments over the Kalapani territorial issue appear to threaten their special relationship (which has opened the borders for the free movement of people).
The structural changes in the external sphere for India and Nepal are born from the changing equations of power in the China.
- In the past, Chinese interest in Nepal was to ensure that Nepalese territory is not used by Tibetans for the breeding of discontent.
- But, in recent times, China has made inroads into Nepal in infrastructure, education and health sectors.
- Nepal wants to take advantage of the BRI project built by China.
- India feels that the Chinese inroads into Nepal are necessarily to counterbalance the Indian influence in Nepal.
- But, Nepal has asserted that its relationship with China is purely economic and will not be hurting the Indian strategic interests in any way.
- India is of the view that the rising Nepal and China cooperation would undermine Nepal’s role as buffer state between India and China.
- By playing the China balancing card as a last resort, Nepali leaders often get into fostering problems that Indian diplomacy neglects or forgets about.
- This is risky because it raises tensions, especially in the security and strategic establishments, which are quick to step in and tend to resort to coercive action that can further escalate the dispute.
- It is also risky because it assumes China is always willing to extend indefinite support to Nepal at the cost of its relationship with India.
- The sooner India settles this dispute with Nepal, the lesser the chances for China to get involved. Thus it need a time of action oriented neighborhood First policy.
- India should focus on working towards multifaceted relationships to the advantage of both nations i.e.., the completion of the pending infrastructural projects will be a great point to start.
- It must also maintain a policy of keeping away from the internal affairs of Nepal.
- Rather than object to Kathmandu’s China ties, Delhi must focus on how to advance India’s relationship with Nepal.