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  Rethinking anti-Indianism in Nepal  
 

TRAILOKYA RAJ ARYAL

Although the issue of anti-Indianism in Nepal exists prominently, it has not received proper attention of scholars and politicians in either Nepal or India. In Nepal it has become a fashion to blame anti-Indianism on Panchayat (1960-1990), where as the Indians see it as China’s growing influence (and interference) in Nepali politics. Both sides need rethinking and come up with a true assessment to further strengthen the “special” relations that exist between the two time-tested neighbors.

It’s almost 20 years since we bade adieu to Panchayat, and yet anti-Indianism seems to be on the rise. For example, recently when the government decided to award the contract of printing Machine Readable Passport (MRP) to an Indian company, there was a huge uproar and the government owing to public pressure, had to cancel its decision. The question is, if the government had awarded the contract to, say, South Korea, would there have been so much uproar and the threats of bandhs? This single incident helps to clearly depict the extent of anti-Indian sentiment.

In a country like Nepal where the tradition of research lacks in academia, and where tenures and promotions largely depend on one’s political affiliations rather than capacity for research and critical thinking, it is quite natural for scholars to nod in agreement with whatever politicians say. For the post-Panchayat leaders holding Panchayat responsible for promoting anti-Indianism served two purposes: First, it makes it appear that the old system failed miserably in conducting its foreign policy. Second, it makes the new leaders appear very friendly toward India. Our academics, for their own personal benefits, came up with papers, articles and theories to corroborate what the politicians were saying, completely overlooking the fact that Panchayat was promoting Nepali identity, and independence in conducting its foreign policy, not anti-Indianism. Of course we can debate how they did it, and its shortcomings.

Theorists of nationalism agree that to create a nation and sense of nationhood, there has to be a significant ‘other’ to contrast the ‘self’ with. The distinction between the self and the other may be drawn along racial, linguistic, religious and cultural lines. The self and the other are relative, and there cannot be self without the other. With so many similarities between Nepal and India, naturally, Nepal had no other options but to contrast itself with India.

Panchayat’s nationalism was not directed against India, it was more directed toward creating a singular Nepali identity.
Therefore to maintain a healthy contrast with India, Nepali language was promoted and new national symbols were created—things that all nations do to promote their national identity which is different from promoting xenophobic nationalism. The former creates a sense of nationhood, the latter gives rise to militant nationalism. Panchayat’s nationalism was not directed against India, it was more directed toward creating a singular Nepali identity. It is safe to say that in the process of promoting a singular identity, Panchayat destroyed Nepal’s indigenous cultures and many languages were pushed to the verge of extinction, but it did nothing overtly to promote the feeling of anti-Indianism. Textbooks, the tools used to promote nationalism, contained nothing against India. Students were taught Indian history and culture, and the important contributions made by India to Nepal’s development. What’s more, there was no mention of 1950’s or 1965’s treaties. Everything was hush-hush. Diplomacy was left to the diplomats. And during Panchayat Nepal did maximize its national interests when dealing with India despite the binding constraints of 1950 treaty. Just as the post-Panchayat leaders relied on Indian support, Panchayat leaders too, relied on Indian support and did not dare openly antagonize India. It was only after the Indian economic embargo of 1989-1990 the government media became critical of India.

With the restoration of multiparty democracy, for a while everybody seemed grateful toward India for the support it provided to restore democracy in Nepal. However, things started to take a strange turn from then on. To provoke their electorates, instead of focusing on real issues, concerns and aspirations of the people, political parties started to blame each other for selling the country to India, as if Nepal was a commodity that India was eager to buy. The controversial Nepal-India treaty of 1950, a matter best resolved diplomatically, was raised on the streets and every political party promised (and continue to do so) that if it were to form the government, the first thing it would do would be to make the treaty null and void. It became a trend among politicians to term every treaty that’s been signed between India and Nepal unequal. But these same political leaders rush to Delhi whenever a political crisis arises, making the general public believe that India does not respect our sovereignty, and openly interferes in our domestic matters, which subsequently adds fuel to anti-Indianism.

The Indian establishment is also partly to be blamed. India is a regional power, and it’s a given that India has legitimate and valid concerns in Nepal, its next door neighbor and that it interferes in Nepal’s domestic matters. However the way India goes promoting its interests irks many Nepalis. For example, India could have used the front channel, ie, go through the bidding process to get the MRP deal, which would have convinced common Nepalis that India respects our rules and regulations. Instead, the Indian ambassador to Nepal relied on his personal rapport with our foreign minister and what followed thereafter is public knowledge. Furthermore, instead of making his every meeting with Nepal’s politicians a media event, Indian ambassador to Nepal could have instead voiced his country’s concern privately. Other countries of the region too have valid security concerns in Nepal, and they too interfere in our domestic affairs but the way they follow is classical diplomacy as opposed to creating a media circus. Moreover, the Indian government should investigate media reports on border encroachments by its border security forces, and Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha being built in India and if the media reports are true, immediately stop them.

Nepal and India are close neighbors who share more than 1800 kms of open borders. Religiously and culturally, we are close and the people seem to get along fine. We don’t feel threatened to go to India, nor do Indians fear to come to Nepal for either business, pilgrimage or other purposes. Therefore, Indian scholars need to ask themselves before they write another report on anti-Indian feelings in Nepal, whether it is their government’s misguided policies that are turning Nepali anti-Indian, or as they claim, the growing Chinese involvement in Nepal. Growing Chinese involvement in Nepal, if it is happening, should be seen in the context of China’s growing influence in regional politics, not something confined to Nepal only.

Nepali politicians too, need to exercise restraint and instead of fueling anti-Indianism to safeguard our own interests and benefit from India’s growing economy. If historical foes like Germany and France, or China and the US, can get along just fine, then why can’t Nepal and India? And our scholars need to explain Nepal’s growing Anti-Indianism honestly. Beating the dead horse is not going to do Nepal or Nepalis any good.

trailokyaa@yahoo.com
 
Published on 2010-04-25 00:38:06
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Rethinking Anti-Indianism In Nepal
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I think relations would improve if they just banned Indian TV commercials here:) [more]
  - herojig
Good article in deed!!!! [more]
  - reshma thapa
Blood suckers. They need to think theirs. Ours are justified. [more]
  - Rabin Pradhan
This is true but nepal also should raise the issue of ani-nepal and Indian bullys everywhere specially at the border side and in the politics..Do not forget that!! [more]
  - Vimal Thapa
l like this article and opinion expressed regrding anti-indianism in Nepal. Though India is our immediate neighbor, it always tries to influence very domestic issues of Nepal. India´s hegemony in every field seems to be the cause of growing anti-indianism in Nepal. I also feel that proper study and research is needed in this issue. [more]
  - Chiranjibee Luitel
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