Sunday, December 10, 2017

Nepal Voters Reject Pro-India Ruling Party to Elect Left-Wing Alliance

Media reports indicate that pro-India Nepali Congress Party (NCP) led by Sher Bahadur Deuba is heading toward a major defeat in parliamentary elections. Nepalese people have shown strong preference for the Opposition left-wing alliance led K.P. Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachandathat that could garner two-thirds majority in the national legislature. The 2015-16 blockade of Nepal by India appears to have played a decisive role in voters' choice.

Nepal's Capital Kathmandu

Indian Blockade of Nepal:

In 2015, landlocked Nepal passed a new constitution with 90% of the votes in the national legislature. India did not like some of its provision and shut its border to put pressure on Nepal to force a change. Indian government denied it was responsible for the blockade. But no one could deny the ground reality of a major economic and humanitarian crisis in Nepal because of its total dependence on India for food, fuel and other supplies.

Nepali Response:

Leaders of the Nepali Congress which has always been close to New Delhi failed to unequivocally condemn the Indian action.  However,  the left-wing parties put the blame squarely on India for the crisis the crisis that caused a lot of pain in Nepal.

China vs India:

Nepal is a small landlocked country sandwiched between China to the north and India to the South. However, Nepal has had close ties to India because the two share a common religion and culture. Nepal has relied on India for almost all of its supplies.

The left-wing alliance favors closer ties with China. It seeks to reduce dependence on India by opening up supply routes through China, including a Kathmandu-Lhasa train link which goes over difficult terrain. India strongly opposes it for geopolitical reasons.

Nepalese Resentment of India:

When a devastating earthquake hit Nepal in 2015, Indian media descended en masse to portray the benevolence of Indians for the victims of disaster. The Nepalese found them so overbearing that they started a new hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia which tracked for weeks.

Source: Nepal's Himal Magazine

The Indian media also attacked Pakistan's relief efforts in Nepal while it attempted to amplify India's response to disaster. Nepal's Himal magazine's cartoon mocked the Indian media by showing a photojournalist popping out of a smiling aid carrying Indian soldier's pocket.

Superpower Delusions:

Indian leaders have superpower delusions. They express such delusions by attempting to intimidate their neighbors--particularly smaller neighbors. Indians have stirred trouble in Bangladesh by using their intelligence service; they recruited, armed and trained LTTE terrorists in Sri Lanka; they blockaded Nepal; and they are using Afghan soil to wage proxy war of terror against Pakistan. All of these activities are not winning them any friends in the neighborhood.


Nepali voters have rejected pro-India politicians and voted in left-wing alliance that seeks better ties with China. The 2015-16 blockade of Nepal by India appears to have played a decisive role in voters' choice. It's yet another reminder that India's attempts to intimidate its neighbors are backfiring. It's time for Modi and company to re-evaluate their foreign policy that seems to be guided by the Kautilya Doctrine that says: "Your neighbor is your enemy; your neighbor's neighbor is your friend."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Indian Media's Nepal Quake Coverage Disaster

India's Kautilya Doctrine

Why is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?

India's Superpower Delusions

Pakistani Arms Helped Defeat LTTE in Sri Lanka

BJP Makes "Akhand Bharat" Part of Indian Textbooks

Earthquakes in South Asia

China-Pakistan Ties


Pal said...

Oli/Prachanda are close to RAW and stayed in RAW run guest houses many times.

Riaz Haq said...

Pal: "Oli/Prachanda are close to RAW and stayed in RAW run guest houses many times."

How the RAW operates as an invisible force in Nepali politics
To be released tomorrow in Delhi, Prashant Jha's book 'Battles of The New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal' tells the story of the country's transition from war to peace, monarchy to republic, a Hindu kingdom to a secular state. This extract details how India Research and Analysis Wing plays a critical role in Kathmandu politics.

The NC was now in panic mode. Ambassador Sood had completed his tenure in Kathmandu and had left a few months earlier. This had weakened the voice of the MEA within the establishment, which was more averse to giving the Maoists a chance. RAW, on the other hand, had veered towards allowing the Maoists another chance. They had not encouraged the Madhesi parties—but the ‘agency’, as Kathmandu politicians called RAW, had not discouraged them either. Left to domestic factors, the NC realized that there was little that would stop the Madhesi parties from choosing the more attractive option.

The NC now used all its political capital to get India involved on their side. The former party leader, and now President, Ram Baran Yadav, shared a personal equation with finance minister and old political warhorse Pranab Mukherjee—the only senior political leader in Delhi who really paid attention to Nepal. They spoke to each other in Bangla—Yadav had attended school in Calcutta. President Yadav warned Mukherjee that the Maoists’ return to power would be dangerous, and they must help stop the Madhesis from voting for Bhattarai.

An Indian embassy official, upset with the [Nepali] President’s attempt to undercut the local mission and reach out directly to the political leadership, told me about this conversation and said that it had rattled Delhi. Surya Bahadur Thapa, the former prime minister who had excellent ties with Delhi’s political and bureaucratic elite, called up his interlocutors with a similar warning. Thapa’s grandson Siddhartha had become a close friend and, over coffee at Babar Mahal, Siddhartha expressed deep unease at the evolving Indian stance, as they saw it. Shekhar Koirala, G. P. Koirala’s nephew who had played an active role in the run-up to the signing of the 12-point Understanding, shared cordial ties with National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon. They had known each other since Menon’s time as a joint secretary handling Nepal in the mid-1990s. Koirala called up his old friend, urging India to get the Madhesis to support Poudel. He warned India that having the Maoists in power at this time would ensure that they remained in office if the CA ended without a Constitution having been finalized and that would have adverse consequences for Delhi. I met Koirala in the CA [Constituent Assembly] compound a few days later, and he confirmed to me that he had reservations about India’s position and felt that Delhi was making a mistake.

Delhi seems to have become worried by the multiple messages from friendly interlocutors. The political section of the Indian embassy now got into the act. They warned the Madhesi parties that the Maoists would deceive them, that their commitment to federalism was opportunistic, and that the parties of the plains must reconsider their options. The pressure could either have been born out of a desire to show to the NC that India was doing its bit, or born out of a genuine policy line to block the Maoists once again. Delhi ordered RAW, which was more open to the Maoists, to step back from the process.

Abdul said...

BD PM: A RAW agent was always in BNP office

The prime minister (Hasina) has said before that the Awami League lost the 2001 elections because it refused to allow the extraction of Bangladeshi gas by a US company for sale to India

BNP won the 2001 elections by giving India an undertaking to sell gas to them, the prime minister claimed on Saturday.
“The RAW agent here, he was always in Hawa Bhaban [BNP chairperson’s former political office] back then, as were the US embassy people,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said at an event in Dhaka on Saturday, reports BSS.
“So the anti-India rhetoric doesn’t really suit them.”

The prime minister has said before that the Awami League lost the 2001 elections because it refused to allow the extraction of Bangladeshi gas by a US company for sale to India.
She has said that former US president Jimmy Carter’s role in the August 2001 meeting between her and BNP chief Khaleda Zia was to broker this deal.
BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Friday demanded that the government make public a defence memorandum that will reportedly be signed during the prime minister’s upcoming visit to India.
“It was Khaleda Zia who gave a ‘muchleka’ (undertaking) of selling gas to India, and by doing so, they came to power,” Hasina said.

Riaz Haq said...

In first winter stay, 1,800 Chinese troops camping at Doklam

Presence of Chinese troops perpetuated with construction of two helipads, upgraded roads, scores of pre-fabricated huts, shelters and stores

China is keen to usurp Doklam to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, which juts in between Sikkim and Bhutan

Around 1,600-1,800 Chinese troops have now virtually established a permanent presence in the Doklam+ area, near the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction, with the construction of two helipads, upgraded roads, scores of pre-fabricated huts, shelters and stores to withstand the freezing winter in the high-altitude region.
Indian security establishment sources said while India "achieved its strategic objective" of not letting China extend its existing road in Doklam (or the Dolam plateau) southwards towards the Jampheri ridge, the fallout has been "the almost permanent stationing of People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops in the region+ ".
"Earlier, PLA patrols would come to Doklam, which is disputed between China and Bhutan, between April-May and October-November every year to mark their presence and lay claim to the area before going back," said a source.
"Now, after the 73-day eyeball-to-eyeball troop confrontation at Doklam between India and China ended on August 28, the PLA troops have stayed put in what we consider to be Bhutanese territory for the first time this winter. But the status quo prevails at the earlier face-off site," he added.
This fits in with what the Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, meant when he warned in September that China would continue with its efforts to nibble away disputed territories through "salami slicing", muscle-flexing and other measures. With Indian troops deployed in tactically dominating positions in the trijunction region, China is keen to usurp Doklam to add strategic depth to its narrow Chumbi Valley, which juts in between Sikkim and Bhutan.
India in the past never objected to Chinese military patrols in Doklam but was forced to intervene in mid-June when PLA troops attempted to disrupt the status quo by constructing a road that would have had serious security implications for it.
Indian soldiers came down the ridge slope from their Doka La post to cross into Doklam on June 18 to physically block Chinese troops from constructing the road towards Jampheri ridge, which overlooks India's militarily vulnerable Siliguri corridor, or the so-called "Chicken's Neck" area.

Riaz Haq said...

Don't drag us into your politics, #Pakistan tells #Indian leaders as #Modi spins conspiracy theories in #Gujarat. #GujaratPollPakLink #India #BJP

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday claimed at an election rally that there was an attempt by Pakistan to interfere in the Gujarat polls.

Islamabad on Monday said Indian leaders should not drag Pakistan into their politics during Gujarat poll campaign.

“India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday claimed at an election rally that there was an attempt by Pakistan to interfere in the Gujarat polls.

Mr. Modi also alleged that suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar had held a meeting at his house with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a former Vice-President, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India, and a former Pakistan foreign minister.

Allegations baseless, says Congress

The Congress has termed Mr. Modi's allegations “baseless”.

“Holding the country’s topmost post, Modiji is making baseless allegations. Modiji is worried, dejected, angry. Such a statement has no truth or fact, and is based on lies. Such a behaviour is unbecoming of a prime minister,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters on Sunday.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, condemning Pakistan's statement, said, "We are very proud of India's democracy and totally condemn this unwarranted statement from Pakistan. I wish to tell Pakistan that Indians are capable of contesting India's democracy on their own... India's Prime Minister is a popularly elected PM... and so is the BJP.''

Anonymous said...

Even the Bhutanese resent India.

Riaz Haq said...

#Maldives jabs #India again, signs power deal with #Pakistan via @timesofindia

Riaz Haq said...

#India's idea is to break #Nepal; #CPEC, #Pakistan and #China’s hold in SA. "Pretexts are in abundance for example, why (is Nepal) inching closer to China?
This is perhaps a crime in the eyes of the Indian establishment. So be it."


While the nation (Nepal) is already in a dangerously polarized state over the “concerns” of Dr. Govinda KC, Nepal’s Southern neighbor has as usual tried to fish in the troubled waters. India does so quite often as and when she has to coerce Nepal in one pretext or the other. Indian marionettes galore. (Dr. Govind KC and the government have come to an agreements and the fast unto death has already been broken by the ailing Doctor: Ed).
Pretexts are in abundance for example, why inching closer to China?
This is perhaps a crime in the eyes of the Indian establishment. So be it.
Exploiting the volatile politics, India is hell bent on inundating Nepali lands in an uninterrupted manner and the hard hit village this time is the same Mahali Sagar Dam area.


Now about our own region: Adding insult to injury, Pakistan is soon to gift a Landing Craft to the Maldives as part of strengthening the naval capability of the archipelago.
This announcement was made just the other day at a meeting between the visiting Chief of the naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi and the Maldivian President Yameen Abdul Garoom in Male.
And here is the famous cricketer from Pakistan, Imran Khan, who is very likely to sworn in soon as new Pakistan Prime Minister after the just concluded polls.
This news has some meaning for New Delhi because Maldives has recently discarded the friendship with India only to be replaced by China. Pakistan just enters the Maldivian scene apart from Sri Lanka.


The CPEC matters for the Pakistani people: The Diplomat dated July 24, 2018, writes very freshly that “Aiming to develop a “growth axis and development belt” between China and Pakistan, CPEC could involve investments of some $60 billion. The corridor connects Gwadar, in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, to China’s Xinjiang region via a 2,700 kilometer route through the mountainous terrain of Gilgit-Baltistan in northernmost Pakistan.
The Diplomat further writes that for China’s and Pakistan’s foreign policies, the potential payoffs are clear. CPEC is a flagship project of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a geopolitical ambition to develop trade and infrastructure with over 60 economies across Eurasia, Africa, and beyond. For Islamabad, CPEC brings the hope of not only economic dividends but also potentially a geopolitical reconfiguration.
With Imran Khan being elected as Pakistan Prime Minister, it will be interesting to observe as to how the two arch rivals, Pakistan and India, deal with each other in the days ahead.
India had preferred Nawaj Sharif for obvious reasons. Nawaj Miyan has landed in Jail now.
With this new development, a positive one, in Pakistan, China will continue to increase its presence in South Asia thus lessening the Indian dominance in this part of the world. Imran Khan is not liked by the Indian media but the latter should digest this fact that Mr. Khan has been elected by his domestic population and so Mr. Khan needs no certification either from India or from its Modified media. The new Pakistani Prime Minister is on record to have said that Pakistan and China friendship shall continue for all time to come which means that China is here to stay for quite a long time much to the discomfiture of poor India. Congratulations.

Riaz Haq said...

#Nepal gets access to all #Chinese ports, ending dependence on #India for #trade. Overland trade to and from Nepal is now routed mainly through #Kolkata which takes up to three months.

Kathmandu and Beijing have finalised a transit protocol that will give Nepal access to Chinese ports for trade with China and beyond. This will bring to an end Nepal’s heavy dependence on Indian ports for trade with other countries.

Traders say the plan to connect the country with China could face issues due to a lack of proper roads and customs infrastructure on the Nepalese side of the border. The nearest Chinese port is also located more than 2,600 km from its border.

“Nepal must develop proper infrastructure for smooth access to Chinese ports. Without this simply opening of ports will not be useful,” said Anup Malla, an exporter of woollen carpets.

China is making fast inroads into Nepal with aid and investment, challenging India’s long-held position as the dominant outside power.

Beijing and Kathmandu are also in talks for building a railway link into Nepal, constructing an electric transmission line and are conducting a feasibility study for a free trade agreement.

Riaz Haq said...

#Nepal pulling away from #India, getting closer to #China

Insult to injury: Nepal to now join military drill with China
Nepal's decision to pull out of the joint


military drill in Pune couldn't have come at a worse time for India with the

Nepal army

set to participate in a 12-day long military exercise with China later this month.

Nepal Army spokesperson Brig Gen Gokul Bhandaree told TOI on Monday that the second such joint exercise with China, Sagarmatha Friendship-2, was going to take place from September 17 to 28 in Chengdu.

"The main focus of the exercise is going to be on counter-terror operations," said Bhandaree.

Nepal's first such joint exercise with China took place in April last year leading to concerns in India over growing security cooperation between Nepal and its northern neighbour. The second Nepal-China joint exercise will come days after the Nepal government directed its military to withdraw from the first ever joint military drill by Bimstec countries.

The Nepal government, according to reports from Kathmandu, is not particularly pleased with attempts by India to boost security and defence cooperation within Bimstec.

India though is still smarting from Nepal's decision to withdraw at the last moment from the Bimstec exercise - when an advance military team from Kathmandu had already landed in India - and the exercise with China is unlikely to soothe nerves here.

As former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal says, participating in the Bimstec exercise would have balanced the exercise with China. According to Sibal, it is unfortunate that Nepal gets satisfaction in provoking India needlessly.

"By taking such inconsiderate steps they will alienate Indian opinion more and the cost will be felt when Nepal faces a crisis in the future. They have to nurture the India relationship, not create distrust," says Sibal.

To be sure, Nepal hasn't scaled up its defence exercise with China from what it was last year. Like in 2017, and as Bhandaree said, not more than 20 soldiers will participate in the Chengdu exercise. India's own joint exercise with Nepal Surya Kiran involves over 300. It hasn't helped the Indian government's cause though that Nepal PM K P Sharma Oli is widely seen in the media as pro-China. Nepal's decision to pull out from the Pune exercise also came after Modi welcomed the "multi-national military field training exercise" at the Bimstec summit in Kathmandu last month.

That Modi government has also been under pressure from Nepal to unblock the Saarc summit process. Oli had taken up the issue with Modi during his visit to India in April. India though remains reluctant as the next summit is to be held in Pakistan. In an interview to ToI during his visit to India, Oli had said that SAARC had a future because it was the common initiative of the leaders of the region who had nurtured that platform of regional cooperation for the past 3 decades.

"Everyone also knows that the Saarc summit that was supposed to be held in Pakistan in 2016 has been postponed. Nepal, as the current Chair of Saarc, desires to see that we are able to revive the process. However, we are fully aware that this cannot happen unless every Saarc member desires so unanimously," Oli had said.

A source in Kathmandu also said India must stop looking at Bimstec as an alternative to Saarc. "To focus on terrorism is one thing but to participate in a joint military exercise quite another. The government as well as the opposition was unsure if Bimstec was meant for an exercise like that," said the official.

Riaz Haq said...

Latest episode of #Modi's lack of long-term foreign policy: Flip-flop (Kabhi haan, kabhi naa) nature of #India's overtures towards its neighbors — and this is most evident in the on-off nature of ties with #Pakistan. #BJP #ImranKhan #PTI

Blind spots in India's neighbourhood policy

There are three fundamental issues with India's South Asia policy that go some way in explaining the present scenario:

1) The duck theory: If it smells like a duck, sounds like a duck and looks like a duck, there's a damn good chance it is, in fact, a duck. In South Asia, and no matter how much Indian governments over the years have attempted to deny the suggestion, India is viewed as a regional hegemon. Whether as a result of being the largest economic and military power in South Asia, having played a role in its neighbouring countries like the 1971 Liberation of Bangladesh and the Indian Peace Keeping Force's operations to neutralise the LTTE in Sri Lanka (the narrative around foreign intervention can change very swiftly from 'help' to 'invasion', depending on whom you ask), or being willing to provide financial, infrastructural and training-related aid, India has and will be viewed as hegemon in South Asia. And no one likes a bully.

2) You don't stack up to China: Aside from the shared geography, India and its neighbours have a common history, many common traditions and ethnicities, and a rich common heritage, aside from facing very similar issues and problems. Further, India has a great deal to offer its neighbours financially, infrastructurally and so on, as mentioned in the previous point. China, unfortunately, has a whole lot more to contribute financially, technologically and infrastructurally, without any of the squabbles that usually emerge from a common history (see: Tamils issue with Sri Lanka).

3) The flip-flop nature of outreach: The problem with being energetic and proactive is that it often leaves the door open for hasty decisions and even hastier volte faces. In its first couple of years, the Modi government went on a rampage in terms of reaching out to the neighbourhood and trying to strike a new note that would be conducive to harmonious coexistence, particularly since the BJP has always maintained that two successive UPA regimes "failed to establish enduring friendly and cooperative relations with India's neighbours". The groundwork laid during the first phase of outreach was impressive in terms of optics. However, the government appears to have miscalculated that sentiment on the ground would reflect the pleasantness and bonhomie on show in photo-ops. It is this miscalculation that has led to the flip-flop (Kabhi haan, kabhi naa, if you will) nature of India's overtures towards its neighbours — and this is most evident in the on-off nature of ties with Pakistan.

An understanding of how India is (correctly or incorrectly) viewed by its neighbours, tempered with an acceptance of how the neighbourhood views China is imperative in the formation of a pragmatic foreign policy for the region. Taking a long-term position and sticking by it until its requirements have been fully met is something that India has failed to do with its neighbours. The most glaring case in point is New Delhi's repeated optimism that "this time will be different" when dealing with Islamabad. If the government says, "Talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand", then that is the line that must be toed through thick and thin. If the government says, "Nepal is a troublemaker", then that is the line to be toed regardless of what the Nepali prime minister du jour says.

In summation, scripting and sticking to an unshakable long-term foreign policy that keeps in mind ground realities and perceptions is the need of the hour for India in the region.

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi refuses to meet #Nepal PM's special envoy to discuss #Kalapani row amid souring ties. Kalapani is a 35 square kilometre area, which is claimed by both India and Nepal as an integral part of their territories.

The Narendra Modi government has refused to meet Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s special envoy Madhav Kumar Nepal, who was expected to arrive on a trip to New Delhi earlier this week to discuss the contentious issue of Kalapani.

Kalapani is a 35 square kilometre area, which is claimed by both India and Nepal as an integral part of their territories — India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of its Darchula district.

Madhav Kumar Nepal, the former PM of the landlocked country and senior leader of the Nepal Communist Party, was expected to visit India to discuss the latest row between New Delhi and Kathmandu over Kalapani, sources told ThePrint.

Nepal was planning to visit New Delhi between 4-5 December and wanted to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urge him to “immediately establish” a foreign secretary-level dialogue mechanism to settle the border dispute, the sources said.

But, they added, the Indian government refused to meet the special envoy.

Nepal eventually cancelled his plan to come to India.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said Thursday it has not yet received any response from the Indian side on their request to meet Indian officials.

The high-level dialogue mechanism, consisting of foreign secretaries of both the countries, to settle Kalapani and other issues was finalised by former and late external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Nepal in July 2014.

However, despite a subsequent visit by PM Modi to Nepal in August in the same year, the mechanism was never put in place, though he gave a renewed push to settle the Kalapani and Susta boundary disputes.

The present dispensation in Nepal has come under massive pressure from the opposition parties to take a firm stand against India over the unsettled issue of Kalapani as well as Susta, which are on the country’s western and eastern borders, respectively.

Ever since India released a new map on 2 November this year, there has been a spate of protests in Nepal over New Delhi’s move to show Kalapani as part of India. Nepalese students, affiliated with opposition party Nepali Congress, were seen burning the new map in front of the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

The sources also said the “invisible hand of Beijing” cannot be ruled out in the entire controversy as Kalapani also borders Tibet and, therefore, China is closely monitoring the developments.

Nepal is also part of the mega ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), under which China is planning to build a massive trans-Himalayan railway network in Nepal connecting both the countries.

“If India can solve the boundary issue with Bangladesh, which also included a maritime boundary, then why not with Nepal, with which we have a special and friendly relationship. We have given Bangladesh much more than they needed, then why let the issue fester with Nepal,” asked Jayant Prasad, veteran diplomat and former Indian ambassador to Nepal.

He said he doesn’t see any reason for the Indian government to not solve the border issues. “This (India’s delay in discussing the matter) will only help those who are inimical to India-Nepal friendly ties,” added Prasad.

Riaz Haq said...

#India angers #Afghanistan, #Bangladesh. Ex #Indian Diplomat: "Our smaller neighbors will look elsewhere in their environs for meaningful friendships, and in today’s circumstances, they do not have to look far in their neighborhood" #CAB2019 #AmitShah

This had to happen: The friendliest and the closest neighbour that India ever had since its independence, Afghanistan, has cast aside diplomatic niceties and unmistakably conveyed its indignation and sense of hurt over the churlish imputation by the Indian leadership of alleged religious / racial persecution of minorities in that Muslim country on India’s northern tier.

The interview by the Afghan envoy Tahir Qadiry with India Today TV should come as an eyeopener for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah — and even External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar — namely, that India’s political relations with its three big ‘Muslim neighbours’ are running into headwinds.

The Afghan envoy has taken exception to the very notion of state persecution of the minority Sikh community in his country. As he put it, “In the last few years, since the fall of the Taliban Afghan people and government, especially this government, has been respecting the minorities, like the Sikh community, our great brothers and sisters as we have in Afghanistan. We have huge respect for them, we have seats for them in parliament, seats in the lower house as well, we also have their representative at the presidential palace.”

Qadiry’s remarks constitute a truthful statement of facts. Except for the abnormal five-year period under Taliban rule (1996-2001), the Afghan state has pursued a policy of pluralism allowing various faiths and sects to flourish.

The Sikh community was never persecuted in Afghanistan. In fact, it was well-rooted in the Afghan society and even in the chaotic times under the Mujahideen (1992-1996), the Sikh Gurudwara in Kabul was an oasis of peace and serenity. (I had a most memorable visit to the Kart-e-Parwan Gurudwara in Kabul in 1994.)

When security conditions deteriorated alarmingly in the nineties, many Sikh families moved down to India to wait out the time of troubles. But the enterprising male members of the families mostly preferred to stay put in Kabul and pursue their livelihood, which was mostly trading. In the Afghan setting, they did relatively well too, especially doing trade with India. Of course, with the hydra-headed beast of terrorism around, insecurity prevails in Afghanistan today and the Sikh community has also grievously suffered. But state repression? For God’s sake, no.

Unlike the present BJP government’s approach, successive Congress governments pursued an open-door policy toward Afghan nationals who sought refuge in India. We never differentiated the Afghans on the basis of their religion or ethnicity. The Indian policies were riveted on people-to-people relations and that approach earned a lot of goodwill for our country among Afghans in general.

Arguably, that approach proved to be the mainstay of the India-Afghanistan relationship. Ironically, even the Indian intelligence, which taps into the Afghan goodwill rather lavishly in the recent years, has been a direct beneficiary of the policy of friendship and the vast reservoir of friendly feelings it created through several decades.

How far the Indian intelligence agencies tried to discourage Home Minister Amit Shah from proceeding on such an abrasive track today we do not know, but it seems extremely unlikely that such professionalism exists any longer in our country.

Riaz Haq said...

Riaz Haq has left a new comment on your post "Pakistan's Choice of Regional Economic Blocs: CARE...":

New #Nepal map heightens land dispute with #India. It shows a sliver of land - including Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani - jutting out from the northwestern tip of Nepal. #NepalIndiaBorder #LimpiyadhuraBelongsToNepal #kalapaniBelongsToNepal @AJENews

Nepal's communist Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has been under intense pressure from student groups and members of parliament to issue the new map since India inaugurated a controversial road this month.

On March 8, India opened an 80km (50-mile) road linking its northern state of Uttarakhand with Lipulekh on the border with Tibet across the controversial piece of land.

Nepal claims the territory under an 1816 treaty with the British East India Company, which sets the Kali river as its western boundary with India and says the land lying east of the river was its territory.

Nepalese officials said the exact size of the territory was being calculated.

A cabinet meeting on Monday decided to publish a new map that includes Lipulekh and zones in Kalapani and Limpiyadhura, Nepal's Law Minister Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe told AFP news agency.

The zones form a region of more than 300sq km (115sq miles) considered important because it is where the Nepalese and Indian borders touch China.

"Nepal will initiate dialogues with India simultaneously to resolve the boundary issue through diplomatic channels," she said.

'Unilateral act'
But India, which says the land is its territory, rejected Nepal's "unilateral act", saying it was not based on historical facts and evidence.

"It is contrary to the bilateral understanding to resolve the outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue," India's External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a statement.

"Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India," he said.

India has stationed a security post in the Kalapani area since its border war with China in 1962.

India and Nepal had both shown Kalapani and Lipulekh in their political maps, but Nepal had not previously shown Limpiyadhura.

"It was an issue of contention when Nepal first drew its map in the 1970s, but it was decided that [the] Limpiyadhura area would be drawn after a discussion with India," border expert Buddhi Narayan Shrestha said.

Nepali officials said the new map will be printed in school and college textbooks and official documents and will be used for all administrative purposes.