Nepal in transition is sandwiched between two Asian superpowers, the Republic of India and the Peoples Republic of China. Our southern neighbor is the largest democracy on earth with more than 1.1 billion population. Its geographic size is slightly more than one-third the size of the US. Our neighbor to the north also with a population more than 1.4 billion; is a Communist state that has adopted a Capitalist Economic system. China is also the fourth largest country in the world. Nepal with a population of less than 30 million has a geographic size slightly larger than the state of Arkansas in the US. Nepal is an “India and China locked” nation as they are our immediate adjoining neighbors.
Comparatively, Nepal may be small as compared to our neighbors, we are a giant nation when it comes to natural resources. Our mighty snow capped Himalayas, our numerous rivers, lakes and glaciers, our dense vegetation, unique flora and fauna, our rich spirituality, religions and ethnic diversity in languages, cultures and ways of living are the envy of many people around the world. Nepal may be poorer in economic and material developments but is rich in bio diversity, environment and quality of natural living. Millions of people around the world would happily trade their lifestyles to be able to live in the mountains or villages of Nepal. More so our immediate neighbors too are envious of what we have but do not know its true value. If we fail to cherish, protect and nurture what we have then one day others will come and take it away. It could be water, land or forests, we can lose them all if we are not vigilant enough.
With the current sociopolitical instability in Nepal, the stakes are very high for both India and China. The ongoing political turmoil. anarchic upheavals, the breakdown of law and order, the widespread criminal activities, outlandish demands for autonomy, representations and rights made by various splinter and insurgent groups divided on ethnic, language, regional, and even geographic divisions – has made Nepal a dangerous place.
The tremendous pressure tactics, the constant roadblocks, closure of educational institutions, industrial and economic activities being stalled, the ongoing power struggle between the various political parties, the looming Constituent Assembly election in April, has shaken the very foundations of the Nepali nation and torn apart the very binding fibers of the mosaic that we all call Nepal.
The ruling Seven Party Alliance along with the Maoists has made a total mess of the institutions of governance, collapsing the national infrastructures for administration, economic and industrial activities and the failure in implementations of various developmental programs. The Nepali people for more than a decade have suffered in silence and witnessed the breakdown of their social, cultural, religious lives, their moral values and rights as citizens being challenged, and the daily sense of insecurity and fear due to breakdown of law and order.
All through these past years our neighbors have remained silent, provided lip service, expressed denial of interference and just stood aside as spectator. As the old Nepali proverb goes, “One does not just stand and look at a neighbor’s house burning, one is morally obligated to rush in and rescue, and save by pouring in water.”
Have our neighbors done that? India and China have both failed big time on Nepal. The policy of noninterference must have been an understanding of not hurting the other, or just maintaining the status quo. The Nepali people had expected a lot more from our neighbors.
Nepal is ideally suited to be a gateway for both India and China, the phenomenal economic strides made by these two nations have now made them the envy of the world, particularly from the west. India’s foreign policy carried out for more than six decades in relationship to Nepal has proven to be a failure. How can India aspire to garner prestige and respect internationally when it ignores the pain and suffering of its own neighbors. It is like the United States ignoring Cuba, its neighbor – it just doesn’t make any sense.
India’s secretive and covert interference into Nepal has only proven to be a fiasco, as the current situation in Nepal has shown. As for China’s policy of non interference may have economic and political sensitivity as featured by its foreign policy, as regards Nepal, China is obligated to come forward and help a struggling neighbor. India and China have both provided economic and developmental assistance to Nepal but it is not enough. When the Nepalis have proven to be incapable, inefficient or too dependent, they should speak up and ask the Nepalis to get their acts together.
Remaining silent only adds to their culpability. Most important, supporting the very corrupting elements, leaders and parties that have weakened Nepal is foolhardy. India and China should both assert and push for permanent peace, security and economic developments without corruption, transparency, rule of law and recognizing the rights and freedoms of the Nepali people. Above all, respecting Nepal’s independence and sovereignty and still being able to maintain goodwill and friendship as good neighbors.
The land of Janaki Sita the consort of Lord Rama and land of Gautama Buddha the Enlightened One is today facing its toughest challenges as a nation. Nepal can become a paradise for not only the Nepali people but also for the people of India and China. The balance of permanent peace, establishment of good neighborliness between the three nations is what the people of our region want. The economic race between India and China can have an outlet for joint cooperation and ventures in Nepal. Nepal is truly the historic crossroads of these two great civilizations.