India and Indians: Friends of Two Different Kinds

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
This article appeared in today’s Op-Ed of The Kathmandu Post. Here is PDF of the page

Sometimes, I wonder why the official Nepal-India relationship doesn’t become as friendly and earthy as the down-to-earth friendship I enjoy with some Indians here in Delhi. Why doesn’t the bond between the two countries become as affectionate and emotional as the bond itself? The bond being that of roti aur beti (bread and daughter) that has brought families across the open border closer together.

[Somehow related: Indian parties spat over Nepal crisis (PDF)]

It seems friendship between the two nationals is not the same as the relationship between their respective countries. The diplomacy is ruthless, heartless and, in the words of a former Indian diplomat who was talking about Indo-Nepali relationship in Delhi a few weeks ago, immoral. Otherwise, a prime minister, in a nationally televised address, wouldn’t have complained about foreign intervention albeit without naming the country (but who doesn’t know the name!). And his finance minister wouldn’t have angrily told an Indian channel the story, in his own words, of the intervention of Delhi’s bureaucracy in Nepali affairs.

On a personal level, for instance, I never complain about such intervention in my relationship with Indians. Instead, we treat each other with respect and equality. Uncle Mehra, my landlord, loans me money without hesitation when I ask him. So do I. Apart from the usual rent, when he asks me for additional money as a loan, I give him the money promptly without a question. But reports that say India is not even selling Indian currency to Nepal when the latter wants to buy it by paying for it in dollars dishearten me as a Nepali citizen. Almost all the Indians I meet on the street — from university students to chiawallas, from journalists to other professionals — are friendly. But then, why is there so much anger and dissatisfaction among Nepalis with the Indian establishment and the people who come to power in Delhi? This, I feel, must be one of the biggest paradoxes in the Indo-Nepal relationship. Last week, I was having a very nice conversation with an Indian friend of mine over tea and a weird thought came to my mind: What would happen if this man reaches an influential position in South Block? Would he change the situation or would the situation change him? I can’t help it, but such questions keep coming to me these days every time I meet a new, friendly and talented Indian.

This past week, Nepal was making the headlines in the Indian media because of what happened in the corridors of power in Kathmandu. In those headlines (and the stories under them) was reflected, partly, the lack of in-depth knowledge about Nepali affairs among Indians. And those that were well informed about the ground reality criticized their own government’s policy in Nepal. For various reasons, I believe Nepalis have better knowledge about India than Indians have about Nepal. The geopolitical reality and our relatively insignificant economic size make India more important to us than we are to them. No grievances. The wide and deep presence of the Indian media in Nepal means we get to know almost every aspect of cultural, social and political India while the Nepali media has almost zero presence in India. That means Indians have to rely on their own media to get information about Nepal. And the media here limits itself to major political developments that occur only once in a while. I can’t remember coming across any social and cultural stories from Nepal in the Indian media in years. Such apathy means the Indian public is less informed about Nepali society.

Still Nepal and India enjoy a nice and close people-to-people relationship. Barring some exceptions, the Indian people think very positively about Nepal and I have found many people in Delhi who have come from all over India and think that their country shouldn’t poke its nose into Nepali affairs. In the recent incident, not only the politically motivated opposition Bharatiya Janata Party but many independent articles criticized their government’s handling of the Nepal situation though the minister of state for external affairs defended Official India by saying that they had not intervened in Nepali affairs. But the truth was highlighted in the Indian media that talked about the Indian ambassador “who behaved in a vice-regal fashion” in Nepal, “virtually camped” in the official residence of the prime minister of Nepal during the crisis and continued parleying with various political leaders to influence their decisions. One headline said: “India blunders in Nepal again.”

I think the excessive “China-phobia” in some Indian quarters is harming the official Indo-Nepal relationship. Nothing is more unfounded and baseless than the Indian notion that China will win the “influence war” in Nepal which will undermine the security of India. That feeling comes because of lack of geopolitical and, to be precise, Himalayan understanding. Yes, the Nepali people do have a roti aur beti relationship with China as well, but that is insignificant compared to what we have with India that borders us on three more accessible sides. Plus, the cultural and linguistic similarity, frequency of communication and the feeling of proximity with India is beyond compare to what we have with China. There is even a saying: “Delhi door nahi” (Delhi is not far), but Beijing is. And those similarities and ties have not been created because we wanted to create them. And they won’t go away just because one of us, or say China, wants them to disappear. They have not been established by South Block either. They are our natural bond, just like the Himalaya with China that were there and will remain there for ever.

I don’t think I will stop watching Shah Rukh Khan flicks or Sachin Tendulkar’s batting and start learning Mandarin just because China builds a hydropower dam in Nepal. Yes, I will be thankful to that neighbour, and I certainly want them to help us more in our efforts to come out of poverty, but that won’t affect my relationship with India. Why can’t India offer more help in our economic progress instead of trying to destabilize our political and government structure to counter the so-called growing Chinese influence? Those who treat us with respect obviously get respect. For some, such interpretations might come as over simplistic; but that’s how Nepalis feel. That’s how I feel. Official India doesn’t seem to see that reality, let alone understand it.

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12 thoughts on “India and Indians: Friends of Two Different Kinds”

  1. complicated…the china phobia is also related to United States. Common enemy of ‘human rights’.

    Then Nepal always played the double cards and we all know that. And our Maoists are intellectuals, so we can al be good friends with the entire world.

    Competitive business.

    Maybe Nepal is growing up and if India does not want to help Nepal.

    CHeap diplomacy. A few cigarette factories, exploiting workers for cheap fashion industry. Nehrus time is a long time ago, that is why the tibetans que ue to go Canada not even USA.

    Low dollar too many immigrants already. The land of hopes and glories.

    China is a new market and keen on facelift which we give them that much a nepalese actor manages.

    haleluja. and ohm shanti
    no where no money ….Will India only sponsor guns ( see Outlook India such a long time ago) indians do have a very bad reputation indeed worldwide. But they export software and so on the extremes. In the end similar to China an economic miracle from poor country to more wealthy in a very short time. At the cost of….
    all the dead little chinese, plus pollution.
    In India at the cost of the last bit of humanity. Hey we all know that. But seriously and without so much Pol Pot blaming, in actual fact Nepal is a bloody mess that only drowns itself more by the day.

    who would sponsor that?

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  2. Yes the matter is exactly the same as mentioned…..

    studying in India for some years has taught me that Indians have a friendly relation with Nepal but they lack the understanding…….

    My colleagues and their guardian keep asking me about the banishment of the king and they don’t have knowledge of any further political developments…in our country……

    Neither they know the political view of nepalese and they keep viewing us from their spectacles…….

    But for sure India has lost its goodwill which it earned by supporting 12 point agreement….in New Delhi ..by crushing maoist government and causing political uncertainity…….

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  3. I have studied in India for over 15 years and have conducted export and import related ventures in India, USA, Nepal, Bhutan and China for the last 12 years.

    As a Nepali, with extensive experience and exposure to these very different countries and systems, I have to state, that laying the entire blame at the doorsteps of New Delhi’s South Block is shortsighted. And even detrimental to Nepal’s long term interest, progress and security.

    Unlike China, which has purchased the self-effacing acquiescence (slavery) of its neighbours (with the sole exception of India, Japan and South Korea) with its financial largesse; India is a more understated neighbour. It has valid security interests vis-a-vis its North, North Eastern and Eastern borders with China. Nepal and Bhutan being “buffer” states play a large strategic role in the mind of Indian administrators and leaders.
    Instead, we have leaders in Nepal, who are blatantly Pro-China / Maoists, who threaten a wounded Tiger with a fire-breathing Dragon. How is that supposed to convince the Indians of our sincerity? This defies logic.

    Nepal and its leader have before them the Himalayan blunder of an example of an ex-buffer state that the Chinese have turned into a colony …. TIBET. And for those who speak so eloquently of a Roti and Beti relationship with the Chinese, it would serve them best to recall that the Tibetans today are a minority to the very Hans.

    To any sane Nepali citizen and leader, the choice is obvious. Our cultural bridges with India are much deeper than the high walls of the Himalayan ranges shielding us from the Chinese.
    Monarchy is gone. Don’t import Maoist dictatorship. A pluralistic democracy is the best guarantor for keeping intact the social and cultural identities of our nation.

    Jai Nepal Desh!

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  4. The fact is all Politicians and Political party follower of India.

    They cry only when things don’t happen their way.

    Common Nepalese is born hating India only because of
    politician’s double tongue. Politician give hate speech but they
    always bend to their master in New delhi. India is not going
    to send army if you don’t obey them. So why politicians bow to India.

    But Indian influence has nothing to do with the corruption and
    underdevelopment prevalence in Nepal. These are all the misdeeds of our politicians.

    The following are examples of Indian influence:
    1. Rana-Congress govt formation in 2007.
    2. India remained silent in 2017 coup
    3. Restoration of democracy in 2046
    4. 12 point agreement
    5. Abolishion of Monarchy
    6. Favouring non-removal of Katwal.

    Think how many of the above is good or bad for Nepal

    Jay Nepal

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  5. Deadend is approaching super fast. Looking inside the running mele of politcal crossfire, dealings and inflighting solely based on upmanship- there is nothing but disaster written all over.

    Time to consider the reinstatement of suspended Constitution of 1990.

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  6. This is a very interesting and enlightening article about Nepali views about India and some very good insights into India’s recent dealings with Nepal.

    The fact that China is making inroads into Nepal is a very BIG concern for all Indians, not only South Block because all Indians realize that China is not to be trusted and not our friend. So when whom we consider our friends seem to be getting comfortable with those we see as threats, is it not natural for us to be concerned and maybe a bit paranoid ?

    After all, I am sure South Block has considered the probability of Chinese sympathetic Nepalis infiltrating India through the open door policy for Nepalese and then facilitating various destabilizing agents across India. The sheer number of nepalis in India would make such a scenario quite dangerous. We already have a very aggressive insurgency in Kashmir based off pakistan, A similar insurgency of Chinese funded Nepali maoists would be quite harmful for India. Not to mention devastating progress in India. And if India were to sour economically, you can be sure that Nepal will be affected as well.

    This very real concern is what drives South Block to do what ever it takes to make sure Nepal does not side with the Chinese and Chinese influence is kept at bay as India would be hard pressed with insurgencies from both sides.

    If nepal considers India a friend, as india does, then potentially jepordizing your friend for your own gain is in no uncertain terms treachery.

    Let China build you powerplants or what ever and India wont care to hamper your progress but Nepal should make sure that they dont sell themselves over to the Chinese over a few power plants and plastic toys to be used against India. Right now, South Block doesnt see Nepal being able to resist the temptation to do so or being able to withstand Chinese pressure should they try to coerce Nepal or Nepalis to act as agents of China.

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  7. My Nepali friends,

    I do not understand the cause of hate…
    I only want to remind my friends that we are all Hindus.
    And Hindus are minorities in this world.

    India is progressing and so they are facing hostalities.
    Now Nepal is also progressing so they will face this too.

    Why hindus dont unite??

    I always believed Nepal is the resore where I can refuge if hindus are attacked—I have always been proud of Nepal.

    Please read situation in many states of India where Hindus are being converted to christianity.

    We are being threatened by aggressive conversion.

    Indian politics is also favouring minorities in India—Why do we Hindus fight among ourselves then??

    Please try to understand situation–it is grave–may be from Nepal you cant understand the ground situation–but here in India saving Hindus is a battle now—We cant afford to loose a friend like Nepal.

    Jai Hind.

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  8. Prithvi

    I found your thoughts for Nepal are utter nonsense! your sentences like “Nepal should make sure….., is that a threat?” did you already forget when China kicked india’s A****SS in 1962 over a INDO-CHINA issue? … when Nehru was prime minister and Mao was chairman in China? Did you already forget that because of INDO-CHINA issue, Nehru died of heart-attack?

    Lets be honest with you, firstly it is pretty clear – China loves Nepal. as well as others;
    1) China is the only country who speaks for Nepal at UNITED Nation. We have a history of fair trade, trust and respect for its people regardless of language or religion.

    2) China was the only 1st country to sign a proposal for Recognizing Nepal as a Peace Country, proposed by late King Birendra, then the prime minister, Rajib Gandhi didn’t bother to sign King Birendra’s petition to recognize Nepal is a peaceful country.

    3) India always creates crises in Nepal by sanctioning daily rations to it’s people, especially when politicians tend voice against India. I still remember it, when former Prime minister for nepal, Marich Man singh Shrestha in 1986, and India controlling our home affairs

    4) yes we have the same religion and language and because of that even in abroad Nepalese and Indians get on well in terms of employment but that’s not enough, we have so many differences too. India’s interference in Nepal’s politics cost life of millions in Nepalese people.

    and finally 5) India’s jealousy toward our friendship with China!

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  9. Sayan

    India and Nepal will be friends when India shows respect for Nepal and its people by not interfering our politics. South Block is not good for Nepal or any other South countries, other than India. it is beneficiary only for India.

    But remember Sayan,

    it makes no deference on like abilities of Indian movies and Indian songs/dance. I still love Lata Mangesker, Abhitab and other many Actors! I still love to visit Taj Mahal and Shanti Town in Indian.

    By the way I loved the movie – Slumgdog Millionaire ! watched 3 times!

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  10. Joti,
    you sound more like the communist for whom earlier Russia was to be awed upon and now after its fall, only China is left .

    Any country will look for its own welfare than others, we must get our house in order.

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  11. Baalmatiab,

    well, obviously… being a secular/democratic/human rights country, India is definitely Rising, ha!

    and being a communist countries like: most parts of Europe is controlled by Russia, North Korea developed and tested its long range missile twice and lets not talk about China, eh?

    my suggestion for you > recognize real Indians…recognize their needs then come and talk intellectual, shall we?

    Like

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