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Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

The blockade will turn out to be a costly blunder for the governments of both India and Nepal.

Pic: Gopen Rai

Pic: Gopen Rai

A lot of words have appeared in the press about the India-Nepal impasse that has led to a near-total border blockade for more than a month. The entire drama is also being played out on social media platforms.

The situation has degenerated into abusive name-calling with not only a false sense of bravado but hurt victim hood and ultra nationalism among Nepalis. And India is behaving like an overbearing bully with a crude and cruel attempt to throttle a petulant neighbour with disproportionate muscle-flexing.

For Nepalis the most glaring aspect of this entire sordid chapter in our nation’s history is a lack of preventive proactiveness and a sense of urgency that were needed to stop the situation from getting so out of hand for this long. The mishandling of the domestic political fallout of the ‘fast-tracked’ constitution, the inability to contain the violence from spiraling out of control in the plains, the excessive use of force in quelling the riots, and misconstruing Delhi’s signals were what led to this crisis.

In their haste to make up for mismanaging earthquake relief, politicians of the NC, UML and the UCPN(M) decided to push through a constitution, any constitution, that would pave the way for a national unity government. This strategy was driven by the political ambitions of two individuals: the UML’s K P Oli and the UCPN(M)’s Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The NC did a volte face on its commitment to the power swap deal and bungled so badly on so many fronts in the past month that it would take too long to list them all here. None of the protagonists are capable of multi-tasking, and they are so distracted by the election of the new  president and vice-president that negotiations with Madhesi groups about constitutional amendments have been unnecessarily delayed.

Because the crisis has been allowed to ferment for so long and by not understanding the political dynamics in Delhi that drove the intervention, the whole thing is now so knotted up that it will be difficult to untangle. There are layers upon layers of issues: bruised egos of politicians and bureaucrats in Kathmandu, New Delhi, Birganj and Janakpur; genuine Madhesi demands for autonomy; the need for Madhesi leaders to launder their image; cross-border sensitivities heightened by state elections in Bihar; the ultra-nationalism of the Kathmandu ruling class; Delhi’s historical geopolitical interest in ensuring a pliant Nepali state through swing votes in a Madhes buffer; paranoia in India about Chinese inroads into Nepal.

Garbage piles up in Kathmandu

Creating a stink: Petrol queue snakes past garbage piling up in Kathmandu a month since the Indian blockade. Pic: Kunda Dixit

Instead of trying to assuage an insecure Big Brother, our rulers are in the habit of constantly enraging it by flashing the China card. As India’s largest trading partner, China is unlikely to risk antagonising India over Nepal. But sections of the Indian establishment, egged on by hysterical media coverage, have latched on to China’s symbolic donation of 1,000 tons of petroleum as if it represents a declaration of war against India.  Beijing obviously enjoys seeing India squirm in a quagmire of its own making, but that is not to say that it will upset its Himalayan spheres-of-influence arrangement with New Delhi.

It doesn’t make sense for Nepalis to get all worked up about India’s stranglehold. It is our own doing. For the past 60 years we have only talked about our hydropower potential, and haven’t even harnessed 0.2 per cent of it. We have gone from being a nett exporter of food grains to importing everything from garlic to gladioli from India. What have we done to proactively entice investors to create jobs at home? Far from being self-reliant in energy and exporting power to India, Nepal now spends more than 60 per cent of its annual budget importing petroleum, and its volume has grown threefold in the last five years. We have done precious little to diversify our import dependence.

This crisis is a result of the incompetence of rulers of Nepal over the years, and the shortsightedness of a bunch of mean and arrogant Babus in New Delhi. We got a tantalising glimpse of a generous and friendly India last year during the visit here by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one that rebooted relations for mutually-beneficial cooperation. But all that goodwill has now been squandered by decision makers in New Delhi who have callously turned an entire generation of Nepalis against India. This is a lose-lose for both countries.

For now, there are three steps Nepal’s new rulers should take:

Short term: Do whatever it takes to end the blockade. We can’t eat nationalism.

Medium term: Jump start the economy. There is just too much politics.

Long term: Diversify imports, move to a renewable energy economy.

Read also:

Proxy war Editorial

Insult and injury Santa Gaha Magar

Fixing what’s broke Editorial

Onus on Oli Om Astha Rai

India-locked Bihari K Shrestha

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21 Responses to “LOSE-LOSE”

  1. Daniel Gajaraj on Says:

    We used to have many conclaves , meetings on India- Nepal Friendship in the past in India.
    What has happened to that?
    Can we have a get together on resolving this impasse as soon as possible some where in India or Nepal with the participation of people who can influence public opinion in both the countries soon?

  2. Gratgy on Says:

    No one turned Nepalis anti india, you were always anti india. Abusing Indian army when Indian army was helping Nepalis during the earthquake. Its good for India to get Nepal of its back.

    Nepali mindset is if India gives something it is because we are afraid of China, hence the credit of India being nice to Nepal goes to China.

    Now you can import everything from China

  3. namah on Says:

    get Chaudhary (wai wai man) and Ambani (reliance man) to talk. money is the bottom line…only line…egos need to be flushed down the pot

  4. Trupti on Says:

    After following a long time beginning from the crisis day, found a genuine article to go through completely. Found very genuine and in interest of Nepal people.

    This is Nepal government responsibility to sort out the political problems. A laud political speech does not bring food/shelter/economy to the common man. Shouting against or in favor of China or India does not help to the common man of Nepal.
    All these Nepal big political parties are fighting for there own benefits and the general people is suffering. As like #BackOffIndia why there is no #FixTaraiProblem tag on twiter. Why there is no # tag for the elected Nepal PM to take care of Nepali issues in time bond manner, Who is actually responsible to solve Nepal internal problem and sort out the trade issue with India.

    More interestingly lots of Nepal Media house also still in War mode. Feel like there is no statesman in Nepal to fight against poverty and fight for development and fight for common man’s need. Lets take a case all these anti India reports and sentiment will bring a bad name to India and take China close to Nepal. But the Nepal where does it stands again. Before all these crisis, it was close to India and away from China. Now Nepal will be close to China and away from India. Again one hand of Nepal stretched and other one ideal. I am sure that this is what a wise Nepali does not want.

    In case of politicians are fighting for there own benefits but what happened to the journalists who supposed to be patriots of Nepal and mostly today’s internet savy educated Nepali people. Are not they suppose to represent the voice of suffered Nepal people.

    I recall one statement from a journalist from Pakistan. Few years back Politicians from Pakistan supposed to say “hum ghass khayenge lekin Nuclear bumb banayenge”. Reality is neither the politician eats grass nor the Army. Its the common man who suffers.

    Lots of time read Nepal has geographical constraints because of location, but I feel Nepal is blessed. Look at the both side. One side a ten trillion economy and other side worlds fastest growing economy. Nepal deserves to have its best time of history. And a Nepali common man deserves the best out of it. Surprise and sad to see nobody fight for this and indulged in narrow politics.

    Well hope the crisis in India-Nepal border area sorted out soon for the common cause of common man.

  5. Nepal just elected its first female president - Quartz on Says:

    […] at its secularism. India, Nepal’s neighbor, appears to have sided with the dissenters by instituting an unofficial blockade of fuel and other supplies across its […]

  6. Natasha on Says:

    India being stuck in a quagmire of it own doing, won’t be the first time. It will be interesting to see if we have the grace to admit a wrong move and do the right thing.
    Antagonizing masses, throwing a hissy fit and then stubbornly standing by it seems to be the go to move for politicians today.
    Come on India when do we see some grown up politics??

  7. Nepal just elected its first female president by Svati Kirsten Narula | smashburst blog on Says:

    […] at its secularism. India, Nepal’s neighbor, appears to have sided with the dissenters by instituting an unofficial blockade of fuel and other supplies across […]

  8. Nepal just elected its first female president - The Voice Times on Says:

    […] dismayed at its secularism. India, Nepal’s neighbor, appears to have sided with the dissenters by instituting an unofficial blockade of fuel and other supplies across its […]

  9. Khagendra on Says:

    Totally agree with the writer that the present quagmire we are stuck in, is one of our own making. However I’m stunned by the aggressive, regressive & over the top bullying tactics adopted by India. I understand about protecting their interests in Nepal but to hurt the common Nepali and trigger a mass grass roots anti-India sentiment? What will they gain having already lost so much? I really thought they were wiser…

    On the positive side there could be (a big IF!) two silver linings amidst all this gloom, hardship and economic loss :

    a. Positive nationalism sweeping the masses and endearing greater productivity in all spheres of work (especially on infrastructure development such as roads and hydropower) – boosting the economy long term.

    b. An alternate supply source of essentials from the northern border, leading to a reduced dependence on the Indian border. This alternate supply possibility itself would be act as a sort of circuit breaker for any overheating of Indo-Nepal tensions in the future.

    Our own Nepali leaders, bureaucrats, movers & shakers incompetence, lack of interest or pure self serving selfishness is a given (after two and half decades of such shameless behaviour). It is also sad to see that India is still too immature to take responsibly the mantle of regional superpower in South Asia – this is really bad news for all the people of South Asia.

  10. Mazo on Says:

    I have read many articles written by Nepalis about how India “squandered Nepali goodwill” – but till date I have never read any articles that has written about how #GobAckIndianMedia, #GoBackIndia, etc that have been going on for years now have “squandered” the goodwill of local Indian citizens to Nepal and Nepalis. What the Indian Govt has done is merely symptomatic of larger Indo-Nepali relations and an acknowledgement by PM Modi that India’s beneficence and bending over backwards to appease Nepal have produced no returns on his investment.

  11. fatah on Says:

    actually, time is ripe to escalate even further and start discussing passport control at the southern border. like the fuel crisis, it’ll be tough first but then that’ll force a new future of self rule, instead of this open meddling by the babus.

  12. Ultra Hyper Nationalist on Says:

    genuine Madhesi demands for autonomy? It may be a good demand and granted than what may happens? If India wants to force their choice to Nepal you don’t need a blockade to the borders, they can ask the state governing body to do it for them. In such case India gets away from any International pressure.

    Now, Let the blockade continue for say 2 years more. What might happen? Short term you know the result, but in long term.

    1. High chances of Investments in Hydro-power.
    2. A petroleum pipe-line through china.
    3. Like you mentioned “We have gone from being a nett exporter of food grains to importing everything. ” We can reverse this.

    Take it as an opportunity, sometimes learn to fantasize. Innovation and development comes from turning fantasies into realities, rather worrying about the current realities.

  13. Gaja Dhan on Says:

    You forget to mention the primary reason for the stalemate – the historical and persistent impertinence shown by the balun-chettris against our madhesi citizens. This was a constitution that created a gerrymandered map to ensure that the madhesis would have no political clout and that the current leaders continue to get elected from the artificial zones they created. There will be no resolution to this conflict long-term if the balun-chettris do not smell the morning Ilam tea and decide that they cannot continue to treat the madhesis as an irritating group of subhumans.

  14. Anupam on Says:

    The concept of Nepal selling electricity is grossly wrong. It was strange to see your editorial following that line. Pure and simple, India is just interested in exploiting Nepali rivers for its own good. The present Madhesi aandolan is remotely programmed to that end.

  15. BNS on Says:

    ” As India’s largest trading partner, China is unlikely to risk antagonising India over Nepal.” But China is the main supporter of Pakistan, India’s arch enemy in the world. It supplies arms including submarines. If China was so scared of Indian business, wouldn’t it be not doing this? This argument is being used by Indian supporters among the Nepalese elites to prevent us from seeking help from china and other countries.
    “Do whatever it takes to end the blockade”: Does the editors of this newspaper mean we should give all of Terai to the Madeshis? This would mean two things for rest of Nepal in the long run: 1. The madeshis will now control 50 % of the population and thus political power disproportionate to their population eventhough they make up only 30% of the country. 2. The Madeshis will forever be able to blackmail the rest of us with similar blockades. 3. Worse, in the event of worsening relations between the Madeshis and the rest of Nepal, they would be able to do a Sikkim and take the whole of Terai to India. The Indians I am sure are aware of this possibility, thus their full support to this unreasonable demand. And with leaders like Rajendra Mahato among the madeshis, that demand may not be too far away. Is the editorial board unaware of this distinct possibility?

  16. mohitpant on Says:

    Mr Kunda Dixit, you’ve as always hit the nail on the head. This is a fantastic write exposing the shallowness of our politicians as well as parading some myopic bureaucracy in New Delhi corridors. Everything be damned – all a commoner, at this juncture, needs is fuel, butane, pharmaceuticals among others. We are a nation starting afresh, albeit not entirely in the manner some men of letters would have liked. It may be years, nay decades before Nepal can actually boast of setting-up some industries, if and only if a political stability is evident to entrepreneurs. Until then let us continue to dance to the Pied Piper’s music and stop fretting.

  17. Sam on Says:

    Well balanced article. But politician solely playing China card should know of Mao’s 1950 statement that Nepal along with sikkim, Bhutan, arunanchal prdesh and ladhak are the five fingers of China while Tibet is the palm and are hence Chinese territory that needs to be anexed in line with the Han empire spear of influence. No one openly talks about it but there is an undercurrent in China. Unlike India which is a democracy and a free media allows insight into what India is doing or will do. Such leverage is not available with China’s expanist mindset that can be clearly seen in the south china sea.

  18. Opinion: A Modi-Made Disaster Hits India Hard | News Umbrella on Says:

    […] trying to teach Nepali politicians a lesson for not listening to them.” Two days later, the same paper talked of “all the goodwill” generated by Modi’s visit to Nepal having been […]

  19. A Modi-Made Disaster Hits Nepal Hard | My Blog on Says:

    […] trying to teach Nepali politicians a lesson for not listening to them.” Two days later, the same paper talked of “all the goodwill” generated by Modi’s visit to Nepal having been […]

  20. Nakuli Khat on Says:

    at its secularism. India, Nepal’s neighbor, appears to have sided with the dissenters by instituting an unofficial blockade of fuel and other supplies across

  21. Avishek Gyawali on Says:

    In politics, it is said “No one is permanent enemy or friend“. In our case, #Nepal and #India could neither remain a friend nor an enemy, emerging Nepal-India relation into a special relationship.
    Also read and suggest :

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