Nepali Times
State Of The State
Why Nepalis love to hate India


Politicians like to repeat that the love-hate relationship between Nepal and India is "age-old", and has stood the test of time. May be so. But this is selective use of history to prove a point.

It is clear from his Divyopdesh (Divine Sayings) that Nepal\'s great unifier king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, didn\'t quite trust the big neighbour to the south. Later, Jung Bahadur Rana marched into Lucknow in 1857 to quell what the British called the Sepoy Mutiny, and what the Indians claim is their First War of Independence. The Lucknow Loot that followed permanently alienated the North Indian elite from Nepalis. Nepalis were planted in the historical memory of enlightened Indians as stooges of the British. It didn\'t help matters much when Gurkhas of General Dwyer fired upon innocent civilians at. Jalianwala Bagh, an event that traumatised the Indian psyche.

Whatever the much-vaunted people-to-people relations, most Nepali students studying in India will tell you that plainsmen consider themselves too civilised to treat people from the hills with respect. Nepalis, for their part, looked down upon Indian with the characteristic disdain that highlanders have for the people of the plains.

At the level of the nation state, Nepal has a litany of injustices it has suffered from high-handed Indians. Nepalis think they got a row deal in the treaty of 1950 when an oligarch under pressure was tricked into surrendering before a bigger, smarter and more powerful neighbour.

Sir C. P. N, Sinha was the Indian Ambassador in Kathmandu to during the transition from Rana rule to that by the king. A zamindar from Bihar, he all but treated Nepal as an extension of his jagir and ended up antagonising a whole generation of Nepali politicians.

There is a strong impression in Nepali minds that they have got the short end of the stick in almost every border river project-from Kosi and Gandaki in the past to Pancheshwar in recent times, All Himalayan rivers originating in Nepal drain into the Ganges. When Indians try to tame some of these rivers, the trouble is transferred upstream, and submergence takes place in Nepali territory, the Laxmanpur Barrage being the most recent example.

Rulers during the Panchayat years had a vested, interest in whipping up anti-India feeling nearly all the leaders of democratic movement had lived in self-exile in India. They were fancied "anti-national elements". India steadfastly refused to consider King Briendra\'s proposal that Nepal be declared a \'Zone of Peace".

In March 1989, India did not extend landlocked Nepali trade and transit treaties. Subsequently, Nepal faced an "economic blockade" when all but two border transit points with India were closed. After enduring more than a year of extreme hardship Nepal is learnt a bitter lesson: the rest of the world wouldn\'t come to their aid when they were bulled by India. The blockade inadvertently hastened the restoration of democracy, but it did not nuke India-Nepal relations any less rocky.

Fast-foreword to the present. After the motivated leak of the so-called "Nepal Gameplan" last month, the atmosphere is just not right for any substantial talks between leaders of the two countries. Shorn of diplomatise the \'leak\' was a nasty display of traditional Indian bluster When he flies to Delhi next week. Prime Minister Girija Koirala will be stepping into the lion\'s den. That is saying a lot for the capital of a country that has been almost a second home for Nepali leaders of his generation.

Actually the \'age old ties\' are just that aged, old and fraying; it the seams, it\'s always difficult for neighbor; of unequal size to be close friend. The best that they can hope for is to remain friendly. At least Koirala is realistic, admitting that he has no high hopes from his Indian "pilgrimage".

Nepal and India share the common challenge of development. They need to work more closely together. But first they must leave behind tie baggage of history and learn to look forwards the Emotions have led us to the brink of an abyss in the past. Perhaps it is time to be rational and pragmatic towards a change.

It\'s never too late to turn a new leaf with India, We should try to create history, not keep on repeating it.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)