It is not very difficult to feel how average Nepalis have come to disdain India. A Maoist surge in political temperament has given rise to an alternative in China that Nepal will always need to counter India, which shows its displeasures over Nepal’s perceived misdemeanours time to time. India, which geographically restricts Nepal’s access to the rest of the world, has historical ties with this predominantly Hindu society. Along the borders with India, free movement of people, trade and cross-border marriages make the two country virtually one. This is a fact that many politicians on both sides of the border do not like. But they are not able to do anything because public convenience in these areas has shaped the public opinion and they can’t be changed to suit some politician on either side of the border. That limits politicians’ role in the matter.
But, as one travels away from the borders and gets closer to Kathmandu, one is faced with a chaotic mix of feelings, which border on anti-India, anti-Indian, self-critical — but not quite so in the full measure. China with its size, paradoxes and also entangled wires in Taiwan, Tibet, Pakistan, has any time more worries about feeding its people and managing a negative public image across the world. It forging friendship with countries depend a lot on economic considerations. Not so because it is a greedy country. Rather, China with its civilisation and warm hearted people can be one of the most fantastic places and people to deal with. But its unwieldy size and controversial political interests coupled with a vast population shape its foreign policy.
Compared to this, India because of its traditional democratic ethos, has found acceptance by people and governments across the world. So much so that both America and Europe increasingly look following Indian values and systems. Both have been allowing more Indian professionals and religious leaders to come and help them in economy as well as society. Indian Sanyasi and gurus have done tremendous amount of work for humanity in the entire of Africa and other places where humanity is in distress.
Compared to this, China’s involvement in the world affair has been only self-serving whether its interests in Africa or elsewhere. China has plans to put in place a rail network in Nepal and Bangladesh and the two countries are apparently exalted at the prospect. Why will China do this? And, what does it expect in return? Is it entirely philanthropic? Though it’s not clear to what extent the rail link will boost China’s business in these two countries because of the long distance from mainland China, at least Nepal can benefit from this in sending its export commodities to a nearest port in China.
On the flip side, the rail links can bring Chinese business and military arrogance dangerously close to India. That will be an interesting situation and if not handled well it can even go out of hand and take a very ugly shape, many Indian policy experts believe. But they also believe that if it comes to that the two countries can also sort out their problems between themselves. The Chinese example of retreating from captured Indian territories in 1962 war to the pre-war positions goes on to show that despite its brute military power, China knows where not to poke its nose. Increased Chinese interests in Bangaldesh and Nepal will certainly upset regional equations and this does not necessarily mean India on the losing side, as is perceived by a section of media and political class. Both the beneficiary countries can also feel the weight of a superpower China on their chest if they allowed it to come so close.
The recent floods in Pakistan are the worst calamity the country has ever seen in its history. The situation is so grave that everything about Pakistan including its Taliban training camps, nuclear armament, friendship with China, US and the Muslim world has been eclipsed. For next many months, it will not be able to come out of this tragedy. And, India being the next door neighbour or enemy of sorts, has an enviable task of bringing the neighbour back on its feet while Pakistan in all likelihood will stick to its similar anti-India, anti-Indian, self-critical posturing — but none of these in the full measure.
So, where does Nepal fit into this regional anti-India syndrome? As you look at the map sitting in Kathmandu, the entire India appears to be sitting on the foot of the great Himalayas. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Meghalaya to Gujarat, India remains open to all the Nepalis — that’s the kind of bonding the two countries have. Go wherever you want, India offers such expanse. Or retreat into the Himalayas, Nepal has such density and depth.
The anti-India, anti-Indian and self-critical Nepali syndrome only tries to upset a relationship evolved with the grace of nature.