Why Nepal wants to stage confrontation with India?

Despite having many decades-long traditional friendship with India, Nepal is today proceeding towards a collision course with New Delhi. Although differences between the two had also emerged in the past they were amicably resolved to the satisfaction of both neighbours. Unfortunately, the present difference between India and Nepal appear to have erupted at the instigation of China. This is why there is no effort being made by Nepal towards its resolution; instead, Kathmandu appears to have joined the Chinese camp against New Delhi amidst over two months long Sino-Indian ongoing standoff over the LAC.


In fact, the difference between the two erstwhile close neighbours erupted when Indian defence minister inaugurated a Darchula-Lipulekh pass link road on May 8, 2020, linking India and China and cutting across the disputed Kalapani area. Though this area lies under Indian territory as part of Pithoragarh district in the Uttarakhand state Nepal also extends its claim over it since 1998 as it is in Darchula district of Sudurpaschim Pradesh. In fact, this area is used by Indian pilgrims to reach Kailash Mansarovar – the holy and divine abode of Lord Shiva. Even China had not raised any objection in 2015 over the construction of this road through Lipulekh. In fact, these areas lie at strategic northwestern tri-junction with India, Nepal and China. And that makes the location of these areas very important for India as well as China and Nepal both.

According to Nepal, the entire Kalapani region has been delineated by the Treaty of Suguali in 1816 – ratified by both the sides – and that is the only authentic document on boundary demarcation, and all other documents are only its subsidiaries; hence not to be considered. In fact, this treaty marks the river Mahakali as the boundary between the two countries. And it is perhaps at the instigation of Beijing that Kathmandu has extended its claim over entire Kalapani, Limpiadhura and Lipulekh, which have traditionally been in India’s territory since ancient times.

Recently Nepal has also amended its Constitution to legalize its claim over these areas. And such a blatantly hostile act of Nepal against India has obviously led to rising of tensions between the two otherwise traditional friends since the long past, having common socio-cultural and religious relations between them. In fact, the relations between India and Nepal had been very cordial during earlier monarchical rules and even afterwards too because the earlier Nepali monarchs had had their matrimonial relations with most of the dynastic rulers in the state of Rajasthan in India. But with communists capturing power in this earlier kingdom, the close relations between the two could not sustain due to communist Nepal’s increasing inclination towards China.


Also Read: China’s bellicose global ascent!


But why has Nepal meekly submitted before China is something that needs to be analysed. It is so not just because Nepal is a very small land-locked country as against a mighty and powerful China; the current proximity between both of them is probably due to mutual benefits that both countries in the union want to derive by evolving a common front against India. While China wishes to overpower India by opening a new front at Nepal amidst their ongoing face-off over the LAC, Nepal wants to please China in lieu of Chinese construction works inside Nepal which Kathmandu could not have completed through its own investments.

But Nepal has perhaps failed to grasp the real Chinese intentions behind this largesse which is solely aimed at capturing Nepali lands for serving the Chinese imperialist goals. Earlier China had successfully used these same tactics in Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka in South Asia and Djibouti, Somalia and other African states just like that of the East India Companies in the past which came for trade with the countries in Asia in the East but afterwards established their colonial rule by defeating the native rulers. In fact, China has already grabbed a large chunk in Nepal and that has led to rising popular protests therein against China.

Perhaps the Nepali government under Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli is aware of Chinese transgressions into its territory but instead of firmly dealing with China, it has chosen escape route to confuse its own people by arousing aggressive nationalism in Nepal, because India had unilaterally published its new map last year showing entire Kalapani region within its territory. In fact, the new map was published by India in light of the changed status of both Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir as two newly created separate Union Territories and that the disputed region has always been in the possession of India.

As against this, Nepal regarded India’s move as a breach of the status- quo and international conventions on the disputed border. But, instead of giving an opportunity to China to exploit Nepal’s grudge against India on this dispute, Nepal should have directly lodged its protest to India on this Indian move and should have bilaterally resolved the issue in an amicable manner. But Nepal chose the route of confrontation with India. Evidently, Nepal does not wish to resolve this dispute just like China and is instead pursuing the Chinese agenda against India. This agenda has its sole rationale to oppose the rising global stature and clout of India’s liberal, progressive and democratic ideas and ideals in all over the world.

In fact, both China and Nepal are governed by their respective communist parties but the commonality of communism in both countries has added an extra cohesive force between the two against India which is a peaceful and nonaligned country. Perhaps China wants to show the power of the ideology of communism as well as an international communist brotherhood to all non-communist liberal and democratic countries of the world having association with the western European countries led by the US.

As it appears that after the disintegration of USSR in 1989 and the demise of communism in Russia, China has stepped into the Russian shoes as the sole propagator and mentor of communism. Despite being aware of the irrelevance of communism as Beijing had already initiated necessary steps to modernize China much earlier than that of the Soviet Union, the Chinese leaders continue to stick to this ideology in the ongoing era of liberalization and globalization for accumulating unrestrained power that Chinese leadership used to enjoy since China began its tryst with destiny in 1949.

And it is perhaps the very system of communism in China which has been manipulated by President Xi Jinping to convert the Chinese presidency into his lifelong personal property. What else can be a cruel joke than this, running contrary to the prevailing spirit of decentralization, accountability and transparency, stressing popular participation into all public offices in all over the world. As aptly pointed out by Lord Acton that, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is why the US Foreign Secretary, Mike Pompeo has recently pointed out the ruling Chinese communist party as a “rogue actor”.

In this scenario, Nepal must come forward to revive its bilateral relations with India, while considering its age old close friendship with New Delhi, which has always extended magnanimous help to this Himalayan kingdom during its monarchical rule and that continues even today. And Kathmandu must also decode the real Chinese intentions behind extending financial largesse to it. Instead of staging the ongoing confrontation with India, Nepal must endeavour to resolve the disputed border issue through discussions and mutual consensus in an amicable way as had been done in the past. This can happen as nothing is beyond human endeavour.


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About the author

Prof. Sudhanshu Tripathi

Sudhanshu Tripathi is a Professor in Political Science and Director (In-charge) at School of Social Sciences in Uttar Pradesh RajarshiTandon Open University, Prayagraj (UP), India. His book India’s Foreign Policy: Dilemma over Non Alignment 2.0 (2020), NAM and India (2012) and a co-authored book in Hindi RajnitikAvadharnayein (2001) have been published besides numerous articles and research papers. He was awarded with the SaraswatSamman by Pt. S. R. Institute of Education and Technology (PG College), Pratapgarh (UP), on “Shikshak Divas” (Teacher’s Day) in 2016 and was also honouredthe same in 2019 by Lion’s Club Allahabad Central at UPRTOU, Prayagaraj. He is also on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Third Concept journal. The author actively participates in social activities as well. He organized a mass awareness rally in 2011, in the wake of Anna Hazare’s ongoing fast unto death against corruption in New Delhi. He was the President of the Teacher’s Association in MDPG College, Pratapgarh, (UP), during 2013–2017 and was also the Vice-President of the ShikshakMahasangh in the district unit of Pratapgarh during almost the same period.