India’s hegemonic policy towards neighbours

Shamsuddin Ahmed

India is making frantic efforts to internationalize Nepal’s Madhesi issue and Maldives’ jailing of Delhi-friendly former president Mohammad Nasheed. A joint statement of European Union and India issued on the conclusion of their summit meeting in Brussels March 30 points out the issues. The statement said they agreed that Madeshi issue needs a lasting and inclusive settlement that will address the remaining constitutional issues in a time bound manner, and promote political stability and economic growth. On the other hand, the International Crisis Group (ICG) on April 4 in a report warned that Nepal risks more turmoil if it fails to address the demands for autonomy of terai region along the border with India inhabited by ethnic Madhesis and Tharus came from India.
Both of it came immediately after Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prashad Oli returned from a weeklong successful visit to China to the discomfort of India. In Beijing, Oli signed a number of historic agreements which will facilitate Chinese investment in addition to providing trade and transit facilities to Nepal through China that will largely reduce dependence of the landlocked country on India for supplies of essentials.
Nepal strongly reacted
Nepal is the last thing on the European Union’s mind when it is battling crisis on several fronts ranging from the refugee crisis to terrorism to Brexit. Therefore, it can be safely surmised that the reference to the political situation in Nepal crept into the joint statement issued after the EU-India Summit meeting at the behest of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the summit. It is obvious that Brussels made a gesture to Modi by accommodating his wish to include the Madhesi issue.
It is no surprise that Kathmandu reacted furiously at Indo-EU joint statement. The foreign office summoned Tuesday ambassadors of the European Missions and the head of EU Mission over the Brusells statement. At the meeting Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa questioned the motive behind the statement. He expressed utter surprise what made EU to reverse the previous stand when it had welcomed the new Constitution of Nepal. Sources close to the meeting said the ambassadors have given to understand that it will not follow up nor it will suspend the humanitarian aid programme that works out to roughly $ 100 million since 2001.
A Nepal foreign office press release said Indo-EU statement not only hurt the sentiments of the people of Nepal but also defies the fundamental principle of non-interference in internal affairs of a country in breach of UN Charter and norms of international law. The Government of Nepal calls on all to fully respect the sovereign and democratic rights of the people of Nepal and refrain from making uncalled for statements. The Government and people of Nepal are fully capable of resolving their issues themselves within the framework of the constitution. Meanwhile, Political leaders launched a tirade against Indo-EU statement. Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda urged all parties must unite to brave external threats.
Skeleton in the cupboard
Nepal Congress party leader Gagan Thapa warned India to stop meddling into internal affairs of Nepal. Delhi expected that Nepal would feel rattled by such pressure tactic. But the joint statement appeared to have only offended Nepali self-respect and national pride. It has so annoyed Nepali politicians that one of them went to suggest India to hold plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.
No doubt, India is apt of playing double standards to suit its purpose. Only recently Modi government took umbrage when Washington voiced concern about religious freedom in India and wanted to hold a torch at that area of darkness. It is India that is setting a bad precedent by laundering South Asian dirty linen in the western capitals? If India thinks it is its prerogative to speak of the internal affairs of Nepal or Maldives, they will expose India’s skeletons in its cupboard of which there is no dearth.
What more intriguing is Indian ambassador in Kahtmandu Ranjit Rae has recently invited Madhesi Front leaders for a breakfast meeting at his official residence. Reportedly he enquired from them about the preparation for next phase of agitation. It is said the embassy has been planning mobilization of ex-Gorkha Indian soldiers for joining the agitation in Hill areas and Kathmandu.
Madhesi political front had launched agitation in September last leading to India imposing unofficial blockade on transit routes to Nepal causing severe shortage of petroleum products to life saving drugs and medicines and all necessaries. Te blockade continued for more than four months pushing the government of Prime Minister K P Oli to his northern neighbor China for salvaging the situation.
Earlier, Madhesi Front sought for greater representation in parliament and in all national matters. It has now enhanced the demand for autonomy.
India’s Monroe doctrine
Many Madhesis want the region, which is home to nearly half of the Nepal’s about 30 million people, to become an autonomous state within Nepal and not be broken up into parts of six federal provinces as envisaged in the new constitution. The terai region along the border with India is inhabited mostly by people from Indian state of Bihar and Uttar Pradhesh. The autonomy demand is seen as prelude to secession movement by Madhesi people with the help of India.
No doubt, India has created an impression in the region that it is a bully, which is hated by all. Everyone understands that India is applying its variant of the Monroe Doctrine to its South Asian ‘backyard’. It is interesting how India-friendly Nikkei Asia Review reported from New Delhi late last month.
It said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to bring South Asia into India’s sphere of influence… Modi, in addition to dangling the carrot of assistance, is also wielding the stick, punishing countries in the region that cozy up to China. The question is whether the hardball tactics will succeed in creating an India-led economic bloc… One diplomatic source called it a sign of ‘India’s hegemonic diplomacy toward its neighbours’. These maneuvers are provoking a response. So while India can use its size and geographic position to lean on its smaller neighbors, they, in turn, can play India and China off each other to their own advantage. Modi may find it difficult to pull those neighbours fully into India’s orbit.”
Source: Weekly Holiday

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