An exquisite foreign policy disaster in Kathmandu
when it was last that Nepal chose to take its grievance against India to the United Nations. The correct answer: 1989. .... It is the most glaring foreign policy disaster since May, 2014. But we are pretending that it is all the Nepalese’ fault, and their loss, their funeral. We are confident of knocking the snot out of those snotty “upper-caste, Hill elite” who have, once again, colonised the Kathmandu power structure. ...... A country that was so warm and open-hearted in welcoming the Prime Minister just six months ago is now hash-tagging at BackoffIndia. .... We are the new regional power. We have no doubts, and we are not afraid to use our clout. After all, we have been given the sheriff’s badge by none other than the sole superpower. .....
snubbed we were. And, gloriously so. There is no other way to put it...... We have a very competent and experienced diplomat manning our embassy in Kathmandu. He is well versed with the nuances of the political power games that were in play throughout the constitution-making exercise. As a consummate professional, he must have been keeping New Delhi in the loop. ..... we have our “agencies” that have a reputation of having a ubiquitous presence in the Himalayan state. They are known to exercise considerable influence and power, both formal and informal, in Nepal's ever-changing domestic alignments and relentless intrigues. Their input must have been available to the big bosses in South Block. ..... And, in the Ministry of External Affairs, we have a vast body of professional diplomats with considerable institutional memory and competence. They can be presumed to have remained watchful about the developments in Nepal. ....... We are also fortunate to have a hands-on National Security Adviser, who is capable of multi-tasking and micro-managing, from crowd-control at Yakub Memon’s funeral to a hot pursuit of insurgents in Myanmar. The services and advice of a couple of very able foreign service officers in the PMO are also available to the NSA. ..... on top of that, we have a web of extensive engagements between our political crowd and the Nepali lot. And most importantly, we have the RSS-VHP and assorted Hindu groups who have always made it their business to keep tabs on what till recently was “the only Hindu kingdom” in the world. Some even suggest that the foreign missions in New Delhi have come to regard RSS’ commissar Ram Madhav as the shadow foreign minister. .....
All these assets and talents collectively give us a formidable edge over the other global players in Nepal.It is our backyard, we know the pitch and we know the ground and we have a fix on the crowd. Yet, we ended up taking our eye off the ball. ...... Nepal's constitution-making exercise was an open affair. And, we should have had a fairly good inkling of how the traditional “upper caste, Hill elite” were trying to steer the power-sharing arrangement. ...... The ham-handedness displayed towards Kathmandu can only be explained in the context of the struggle for the Patna gaddi. Petty and short-term electoral calculations were allowed to overshadow competent diplomacy.
For the first time in my life I feel like the word Madhesi exists in Patna, Lucknow and Delhi, for the first time an Indian Prime Minister, an Indian Home Minister, an Indian Foreign Minister have taken personal interest in the Madhesi cause. This is supposed to be bad news?
The ruling elite in Kathmandu, the Khas, all of them came from India. The Madhesi are native to Madhesh. The term Madhesi does not exist in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh. It is a term peculiar to Nepal. But the cultural affinity across the border is unmistakable and cross border marriages are the norm. There is an open border like exists nowhere else on the planet, but one hopes will exist everywhere perhaps in the 22nd Century, because it is so cutting edge.
All South Asian borders are unnatural. You find the same people living on two sides of the border everywhere, be it the Pakistan India border, the India Bangladesh border, or the Nepal India border in Nepal's western hills. The Madhesis are not unique.
There is sheer pragmatism. Should the conflict go the militant way, maybe 10,000 Madhesis might pick up arms, but likely three million might flee to the south and swamp Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Would that be a welcome scenario in Delhi?
And there is the no small issue of doing what is right. All Madhesis are asking for is equality. Or are they supposed to give ground and go the way of the Rohingya?
This is also about India coming of age and going toe to toe with powers like China and the United States and projecting itself on the global stage.
I try to look at China with an open mind. China has lifted more people out of poverty than any power in history and I respect that. I want India and Africa also to lift large numbers of people out of poverty. America ploughed its surplus into Europe and built infrastructure there after World War II. China seems to want to plough its surplus into building infrastructure across Asia and in Africa. And that is a good thing. I can see why China might feel jittery about the South China Sea. You could practically choke the Chinese economy by obstructing that sea route through which it gets all its oil supplies. But the sea lanes have to be kept open and safe for commerce, not just for China, but also the smaller powers. Indian origin minorities may not be put to harm by local powers in countries like Sri Lanka, Burma and now Nepal. China can not be seen to be taking sides against the Madhesi.
India is a eight trillion dollar economy, measured for Purchasing Power Parity. That is not a small economy. India's time is not in 20 years. India's time is now.
China is not a democracy. It can appear to speak in one voice. India, on the other hand, is a democracy. It is but natural that the opposition in India will seek to speak against Modi on every issue imaginable. It does not disturb me to see that. Democracy is what makes India great and appealing. Those voices are but normal. But the counter arguments have to be made. If Madhesh were a separate country and Modi could run for Prime Minister, he would collect 90% of the votes. That is how right he has been for the Madhesis who are fighting for 20th century rights in the 21st century. This is still pre-1947 for the Madhesh. It is like the British never left.
Modi is but in his second year in office. Independent of the Madhesh issue I think he is poised to rule India for 20 years and turn it into a First World country. This is your Deng Xiaoping, India, this is your Lee Kuan Yew. During his first year in office he has put India on the global map. Indians should take pride that their Prime Minister is currently the most popular politician in the world. A 200 billion dollar expenditure on defense can not buy you something like that. There are somethings money can not buy. We live in the era of soft power. And Modi, by that account, has conquered the world. Victory is yoga going to every town on earth, and we are already half way there.
As a last resort Modi has to be ready to do a Bangladesh on Madhesh. He pulled a Rajiv Gandhi in 2014 by getting the wide popular mandate. Maybe he will get to pull a Indira Gandhi on Madhesh. And if I am proven right and he does rule for 20 years, he will also have pulled a Nehru.
Call me an Indian Imperialist, but my vision does not clash with the basic premise that all human beings are equal. My imperialist thoughts are about deepening Indian democracy, not subjugating peoples. There are too many countries where minorities get meted out second class treatments for no reason other than that they are Indian. That can not stand.
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SSS = KKKK
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