[For more background and events from the past few years that can help you understand Nepal-India relations better, please read another post before this one. If you’re fairly informed on the background, please continue with the post below.]
The middlemen of Indian intelligence trying to manipulate public opinion through newspapers and other channels backfired on Indian interests. It is high time India revised its dealings with Nepal.
There are very few in Nepal today who believe that we should be less friendly to India. Given the right opportunities (or lack thereof for the opposing forces), Nepalese people would choose the kind of government and future that would be most beneficial to India and the region.
It was clear in the recent election how unpopular the line of political thought supported by Indian intelligence and their middlemen had become in Nepal. By so firmly associating with a set of ideas that was so much loathed in Nepal, India made sure that her own goodwill in Nepal went down the drain with the political actors and parties that were swept aside in Nepal’s elections. The middlemen would surely have presented a different version of this reality, but the people in Nepal felt that India was standing with and even strengthening the forces that they did not want to lead Nepal in coming days.
It would be best for India to just ensure that she does not align with the forces opposing this wave of change in Nepal. Nepalese would rather see India stay away and helping only when asked. All through the past few years, India being seen as the hidden agent encouraging Nepal’s anti-democratic forces with archaic ideologies and extremist behaviors, did not help at all.
What would be the best suggestion to India on how to handle her relations with Nepal? I’d like to offer a few points.
It is in India’s best interests to help Nepal manage herself. Nepal is a very old country, and has thousands of able people who are able to take the challenges of this democratic republic. Nepal has vibrant civil society that has, despite follies and deep divisions, managed to hold high the flags of democracy, civil liberties and rule of law. Without outside support to the proponents of a closed society and authoritarian tendencies, these voices would certainly win in Nepal (as evident in recent elections). An educated youth population inside Nepal is more rational than ever. No longer hostage to propaganda by the autocratic governments or ultra-leftist forces, they are more open about better ties with India and are honest about the realities of Nepal’s geopolitics. With a legacy of being a freedom loving and friendly people, they are more aspiring than ever to be citizens of a democratic and developed Nepal. It is only a democratic and economically prosperous Nepal that can safeguard India’s interests in the region.
India need not be wary of what would happen if it did not actively pursue the role of dictating Nepal’s public opinion. With free press, and an aware youth population, Nepalese have shown their ability in making up their own mind, and have exhibited a lot of maturity in doing so. The middlemen of Indian intelligence trying to manipulate public opinion through newspapers and other channels backfired on Indian interests.
Instead, by relying on shady intelligence middlemen, India was seen as going against Nepalese people’s aspiration for democracy and development.
Such lack of transparency is out of sync with the youth of Nepal who expect equal treatment and more clarity. A very essential first step towards this is to stand with the people in Nepal and the kind of politics they identify with. For this, India has to stop relying on its intelligence’s middlemen in Nepal, and has to start engaging in a political, cultural, scientific and academic levels. Relying on such middlemen and intelligence agencies would be no different than relying on the opaque structures of former establishments like absolute monarchy or extremist forces. Nepal would appreciate a more open and frank approach, without the reliance on techniques to influence public opinions through unpopular middlemen.
Perhaps, the best India can do for Nepal is to learn to trust the Nepalese people. A democratic, open and independent Nepal is in India’s best interests. As India’s past support for absolute monarchy and the coalition of ultra-left and extremist parties have exhibited, India’s goodwill cannot be protected by the forces that are at the very core antagonistic to the aspirations of Nepalese people.
India’s success in Nepal depends on a choice- to stand with Nepalese people, or against them?