Peace is an alien concept for Nepal’s neighbors. But, at the same time, Nepal is no different. To everyone’s surprise, these three nations have seen violence and enjoyed peace to some extent. Yet, the one to suffer most is Nepal—not because its corrupt and incompetent politicians couldn’t do much, but it is always dragged into the pit due to its geographical position. At a time when Nepal and China were pushing the idea of a trilateral partnership, including India, the Doklam situation has deleted that term for time being. How has this situation affected Nepal?
Recently, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara said in a press conference that Nepal doesn’t side with either China or India on the Doklam issue. India was anticipating it and China knew too that Nepal is playing a safe game post-2015. Nepal has no option but to play an equidistant role since it’s neither Israel nor South Korea to challenge or influence its gigantic neighbors. And it’s not even realistic that Nepal can play the role of David and bring down both nations on its knees. In this messy situation, Nepal has played a tacit role and survived to not be the next Bhutan. The other Himalayan kingdom has no choice but to side with India because of the latter’s heavy military presence on its soil and due to other treaties, including ‘blockades’.
It’s a fact that Nepal is moving towards China and many in New Delhi rue that PM Modi has destroyed the relation between India and Nepal. But, it’s not Modi per se (although his decision to impose the blockade on Nepal during 2015 might have triggered it) but the nationalist agenda pushed forward by the former Prime Minister K.P. Oli and the subsequent rise of anti-India feeling in Nepal are the main reasons. The other reason is analysts and commentators have reasoned that Nepal’s only way out now is ‘economic development’ and reduce ‘dependency’. The trade deficit between Nepal and India is extremely high and this small nation is trying hard to reduce it.
Bhutan might have been looking at Nepal and realizing that implementing ‘equidistance policy’ but might actually work off since neither Nepal nor Bhutan wishes to be dependent on India or China. Unfortunately, India has played a negative role with Bhutan and Nepal by making them dependent and then ‘interfering and influencing’. This has backfired now. In an article in the New York Times, few Bhutanese have expressed their feelings about India. They are now feeling ‘suffocated’ and not ‘protected’. Nepal has felt so since the 1950s but it is already working on to have other oxygen from the northern kingdom.
I do not wish to take any sides between China and India. But since I studied in Hyderabad, India and can understand Hindi to some extent I’d feel comfortable to support India in the event of a war. But, India is failing as the largest democracy in the world since it has ignored the voices of Nepali-speaking people in Darjeeling and has been involved in state violence in Kashmir, Assam, North East states, et cetera. India is suffering from gau-ism and hardcore Hinduism right now. Yes, I am born in a Hindu family and Nepal shares Hindu culture and ties with India but I definitely do not wish to follow the path of gauism or wish to become a ‘gau-rakshak’. And China follows a strict path of authoritarian rule and it doesn’t allow any citizens to speak their mind or exercise the freedom to ‘think critically’. As you can see I’m critical most of the time and it wouldn’t be possible for me to survive in China as a citizen. The only thing I like about my neighbors right now is their ‘economic progress.’ But to be frank what does the economic progress do to the people when they can’t live freely?
Nepal has no obligation to take any sides between India and China. And it shouldn’t, ever. What Nepal need now is economic development and ensure its sovereignty remains intake for now and ever. This is the only way Nepal will survive between its quasi-democratic India, and authoritarian communist China. Nepal knows well that it can buy peace by having peace in the first place. Perhaps, its neighbors aren’t aware of. And if China and India cannot be assured of Nepal not taking any sides—maybe, there’s a possibility Nepal might transform one of their powers into one of its own.