The encroachment onto Nepalese land in Susta VDC, Nawalparasi clearly demonstrates how India is trying to take advantage of the current political mess in Nepal.
While Indian embassy staffers in Kathmandu keep themselves busy painting India as a friendly nation by providing funds to build bridges and inaugurating school buildings in Terai, their government in New Delhi makes the Nepalese pay for the financial aid provided to Nepal by ripping off their national identity.
What could be the better time than this to encroach on a smaller state’s territory?
Political parties are wrestling with the King to grab power and the King is flexing his muscles to maintain the status quo. New Delhi does understand that neither political parties that are busy protesting in the street nor the King residing in the Narayanhiti trying to garner India’s support can afford to displease India by voicing their concern over Susta.
As both the warring parties are trying their best to remain in the good books of India, poor people in Susta are forcibly being converted into Indian citizens without much opposition from the government and political parties that are meant to fight for citizens’ rights. Citizens of Susta are the recent victims of bullish and oppressive policies of Indian expansionists.
Nepal is not the only nation that has a border dispute with India. India has ongoing border disputes with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The areas in contention with China and Pakistan are among the largest existing land boundary disputes in the world. The Indo-Bangladeshi contention over New Moore/South Talpatty Island and Indo-Nepali dispute over Kalapani and Susta involve comparatively small areas. But the point here is not how big or small the area of dispute is. It’s about India’s attitude towards its neighbors in the region.
With three-quarters of the landmass, population and economy of the region, India has developed a bullish and hegemonic attitude towards its neighbors.
Even after having fought wars with China and a recent war (Kargil) over Kashmir with Pakistan, India has not acknowledged the importance of peaceful coexistence. In addition to the already existing issues such as Kalapani which has been forcibly occupied by the Indian army; the Laxmanpur Barrage that has resulted in the flooding of Nepalese villages; the Mahakali treaty that is unfairly loaded in favor of India, the recent Susta encroachment exhibits India’s increasing lust over foreign territories.
What New Delhi should understand is, national boundaries are symptomatic of wider bilateral relations and manifestations of national identity. They can be trip-wires of war. The seething anger of the people of China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal against the Indian expansionism may burst into the open any time in the near future.
The people of these countries in order to maintain their self respect and nationalism can burst open and harm Indian interests and establishments in their respective countries and the region as they did during the Hrithik Roshan Fiasco in Nepal.
The anti-Indian feeling in Nepal is at the highest level and the Nepalese citizens are bitter to the core. India should realize that a relationship built on genuine equality and mutual respect is the only guarantee for peace and development in South Asia.
Hari Bansha Dulal is a doctoral student of Environmental Science and Public Policy at George Mason University, Virginia, USA
By Hari Bansha Dulal