May 21, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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STABILISING INDIA-NEPAL TIES IN CHANGING TIMES

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THE CONTEXT: In Nepal, there is a palpable sense of restlessness, dissatisfaction, and uncertainty in the air because of the overall political and economic environment. While the transition to a full-fledged democracy underpinned by credible political institutions seems unending, there is also confusion about the direction in which it is headed.

ISSUES:

  • Political Instability and Governance: Nepal is experiencing significant political instability and governance issues, with frequent government changes and a lack of solid institutional underpinnings. Corruption and misgovernance exacerbate this instability, raising concerns about the country’s ability to handle its challenges effectively.
  • Secularism vs. Hindu Identity: There is a debate over whether Nepal should revert to its Hindu identity, which it lost when transitioning to a secular federal democratic republic. This transition was seen as rushed and not thoroughly debated, leading to questions about its appropriateness given Nepal’s deeply religious but tolerant ethos.
  • Monarchy Restoration: The possibility of restoring the monarchy to ensure stability and respect for democratic red lines is a cause of concern. This idea is gaining traction among some factions in Nepal, reflecting dissatisfaction with the current democratic setup.
  • China’s Influence: China’s growing influence in Nepal is a significant concern, particularly with the recent changes in the coalition government and Nepal’s renewed cooperation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This influence is seen as coming at the expense of India’s regional interests.
  • India-Nepal Relations: Nepal’s internal political dynamics and external influences, particularly from China, complicate the relationship between India and Nepal. India has maintained a low profile but faces pressure to engage more actively in Nepal’s affairs, especially regarding its identity and governance issues.
  • Regional Security and Terrorism: There is a potential for increased cross-border terrorism and smuggling activities from Nepal, influenced by third countries like Pakistan. This situation is reminiscent of past issues during the Maoist insurgency and poses a threat to regional security, particularly for India.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Strengthening Democratic Institutions: Nepal needs to focus on building robust democratic institutions that can handle the complexities of governance. This includes ensuring that the constitution is well-debated and inclusive and that political leaders are experienced and capable of managing the country’s challenges. Strengthening institutions will help maintain political stability and foster a democratic culture.
  • Promoting Economic Development and Reducing Corruption: To survive in the post-COVID-19 world, Nepal must tackle corruption and misgovernance. Implementing transparent and accountable governance practices can help reduce corruption. Additionally, promoting sustainable economic development through innovative approaches in health, education, food and nutrition, and job creation can improve the quality of life for Nepalese citizens and reduce reliance on foreign aid and projects like China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Balancing Foreign Relations: Nepal should aim to balance its foreign relations, particularly with India and China. While engaging with China for economic benefits, Nepal must maintain strong ties with India to avoid falling into a debt trap and ensure regional stability. High-level diplomatic efforts and strategic partnerships with both countries can help Nepal navigate its geopolitical challenges.
  • Addressing Calls for Monarchy and Hindu Identity: The debate over reverting to a Hindu identity and restoring the monarchy should be addressed through inclusive national dialogues. Nepal must decide on these issues internally, without external interference. Encouraging open discussions and referendums can help gauge public opinion and ensure that changes reflect the people’s will.
  • Fostering Regional Cooperation and Security: Nepal should work closely with regional partners, including India, to address security concerns such as smuggling, terrorism, and cross-border activities. Strengthening intelligence-sharing and cooperation on security matters can help mitigate threats. Additionally, participating in regional groupings like the Quad can provide a platform for addressing broader geopolitical challenges and ensuring regional stability.

THE CONCLUSION:

India should also never forget that for the big brother-small brother syndrome to be overcome, the onus lies on the big brother—the style of diplomacy matters as much as the substance of relations between the two countries. Regarding Nepal, the many concerns complicating the India-Nepal relationship need not be an insoluble migraine. The new government in New Delhi has its work cut out in June of this year.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q.1 Increasing cross-border terrorist attacks in India and growing interference in the internal affairs of several member-states by Pakistan are not conducive for the future of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).” Explain with suitable examples. 2016

Q.2 China is using its economic relations and positive trade surplus as tools to develop potential military power status in Asia’; in light of this statement, discuss its impact on India as her neighbor.2017

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q.1 Analyze the evolving dynamics of Nepal’s political landscape in its transition to a secular federal democratic republic. Discuss the internal and external factors influencing these changes, mainly focusing on the roles of India and China.

SOURCE:

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/stabilising-india-nepal-ties-in-changing-times/article68171930.ece

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