An article of May 14 on Japan’s “The Diplomat” website, originally titled: India’s suspicion of China-Nepal relations may be self-defeating. Due to “unofficial blockade” imposed by India along India-Nepal border, relations between Nepal and China have warmed up. The latter is the only country other than India to share a border with Nepal. Kathmandu feels if Nepal does not diversify its trade, in future it may again be victimized by an overbearing India.
It is really humiliating for Nepal that India has always treated Nepal as its “backyard” since its independence in 1947, not allowing the presence of other countries, especially China. After losing the China-India border war in 1962, India has become unduly worried about losing its long-time “sphere of influence” in South Asia due to Chinese invasion. If Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, these small South Asian nations, come even slightly closer to China, India reacts very angrily and uses high-handed tactics to coerce them into submission.
But it is unbecoming for the world’s largest democracy to have such a whimsical diplomacy towards smaller nations. Chinese leaders proposed, a few days ago, to make Nepal the economic bridge between China and India, which will finally benefit all three of them. This shows China’s eagerness to collaborate with India in South Asia; however India refuses to buy into this idea. China has been very different from India. It has maintained a strictly neutral stand towards Nepal, letting Nepalese people decide the policy best suited to their national interests.
If India’s mission is to keep Nepal at a “safe distance” from China, its recent “hammer diplomacy” has already failed. In the 70 years history of bilateral relations between Nepal and India, anti-Indian sentiment (and the corresponding goodwill towards China) among Nepalese people has never been so high. If India intends to maintain its hegemony in Nepal and South Asia, it must learn to “keep a careful distance”.
At the same time, India must show more tolerance of Nepal’s close relations with China and other countries. If Nepal wants to expand its relations with China, it doesn’t mean it undervalues its relationship with India or is opposed to India’s interests. In fact, all the major political parties are aware of the Indian sensitivities. They are also aware that the deep interpersonal ties between the people of Nepal and India cannot be replicated with China. Indian films and soap operas are extremely popular in Nepal, while most of the Nepalese people will not know even one Chinese song. The China-Nepal border is very strict; Beijing will never agree to completely open Tibet to serve the interests of Nepal.
Therefore India’s suspicion of China is baseless.
(Author Baral Biswas, open translation)