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Sunday, Aug 02, 2020 13:15 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Aug 02, 2020 07:31 [IST]

On Indo-Nepal Relations

KAMAL BARUAH
They are basically cattle-rearing and farming people but poverty drove them migration in the form of soldiers in the Gorkha Corps, when the British annexed Assam in 1826, it raised the Assam Light Infantry. The Assam Railway & Trading Company (1881) brought Nepali to work in coal mines and oil wells. There are 8.5 millions of Nepalese livings in India and thirty five thousands of Gorkhas are still serving for Indian Army. Nepali are mostly living in West Bengal Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal and NE States. 8% of them makes up Assam’s overall development on art, culture and literature. Sahitya Akademi Awardee Padmashri Lil Bahadur Chettri, has also been awarded by Nepal’s highest literary award Jagadamba Shree Puraskar.
Nepal is a landlocked country surrounded by two big neighbors and truly dependent on India for essential goods. It has geographical, historical, cultural and economic linkages since ages and maintains close bonds through marriages and family ties, 'Roti-Beti ka Rishta'. India is Nepal’s largest trade partner in FDI, providing transit / merchandise / service trade, 100% petroleum supplies and second highest inward remittances after Gulf countries for pensioners, professionals and workers working in India. Nepal Imports 70% from India through organized trading points at Mechi and Mahakali and India receives 60% of Nepal’s total export. Nepal has historically relied on India for its transit trade primarily through the ports of Kolkata and Visakhapatnam. 
As China opens border connections to Nepal, it reverses the dependence to one nation. Ironically Kathmandu considers China as an alternative. They pushed ahead with amending a map that includes disputed territories Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura of having China’s backing while India engaged in Ladakh. Beijing wants to diminish age-old relations between Nepal and India. Oli’s confrontationist position with India is possible under active support of China. Should India retaliates; Nepal might face huge economic impact? Himalayan country started trading (14% total goods worth 1.2 billion USD) with China through a few transit points and vice versa 2% for China. They import from mobile sets to telecom equipment, readymade garment and electrical goods’ machineries.
Nepal India relation must continue before it allowed going damage. The insight relationship has recently gone under fresh strain at the behest of northern neighbor. They even protest India’s strategic Lipulekh Pass connecting Kailash Mansarovar. The watershed moment was the Indian origin people for Madhesi agitation 2015 and long economic blockade that crippled Nepal’s economy. China took the opportunity connecting Tibet for essential products to help Kathmandu. They plans a strategic railway network Kathmandu-Gyirong extending to Lhasa-Xigatse. Post era of monarchy government now under Communist led Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has brazenly and aggressively taken on India and preferred China for bilateral trade. Is Rising Nepal moving upward Dragon’s trap? Indian Media cautioned Nepal for Chinese intervention thereby transmission get blocked recently. Nepal believes world’s manufacturing hub China to help them for Micro management.
While India Nepal treaty 1950 of peace and friendship for close strategic relationship has continued, China is stepping multiple steps like teaching Mandarin in school, training for bureaucrats and organizing cultural exchange programs through its embassy. Nepal receives second largest tourist source from China.  Since Nepal failed to attract grand and loans from World Bank thereby they approached China (106 million dollars) for post–earthquake reconstruction projects in making highways and industries. China has ambitious Belt and Road Initiatives extending Nepal. Chinese engineering has also involved with the Pokhara International Airport project and other manufacturing, cement and hydropower sectors.
Young Nepal may opine good for the direction towards China. Nepal is a sovereign country and now they want to maintain equidistance between two great neighbors and plan to continue cordial relationship for its prosperity and political stability. Is there a fear of Nepal going like Tibet someday? Communist China is a capitalist nation too and can exploit them. There is allegation against India for supporting and sheltering Nepali Maoist that destabilized monarchy in Nepal. Nepalese blamed Indian bureaucracy for unable to read their psychology. Will Nepal protect sovereignty from Chinese imperialism since history saw their past action? The only Hindu and secular country Nepal felt proud of defeating enemy in Nepal Tibet War. Tibet was paying war compensation until China took over. Nepali youths are very optimistic that could play significant role making the India and China relation cordial and anticipate advantages from the two big nations.
Poor infrastructure such as electricity and road access fueled by political instability are the major reasons for deindustrialization in Nepal. With enhanced partnership with China and new markets connectivity in East, Nepal may find the opportunity to realize its aspiration to develop but they should continue strong cultural, religions, social and military ties with India for peace and harmony with its big neighbors. The growing and continued widening trade deficit Rs 85,519 crore with India, and Rs 20,340 crore with China is a cause of concern for Nepal. Being a buffer state lying between two rival powers, Nepal should not get caught under their sphere of influence. Beijing eyes on India’s porous border with Nepal and tries to hamper decade old people-to-people connection and close ties.

(kamal.baruah@yahoo.com)

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi