The morning after Nepal’s Constituent Assembly was dissolved following failure to promulgate a new constitution within deadline, my neighbour, a successful businessman, blamed India for the debacle.
I didn’t say anything. But it’s not just my neighbour, many Nepalis believe this theory. Social networks are still abuzz with comments on how New Delhi prevented Nepal from getting a new constitution on May 27.
Despite no proof, such assumptions continue to spread — even after PM Bhattarai, in a recent interview, absolved Nepal’s two big neighbours, India and China, of any blame for the present crisis.
India may have kept away from Nepal’s internal issues this time, but there’s reason behind such assumption. Nepal’s southern neighbour has a history of interfering in the constitution making process in Kathmandu.
Eminent politician and diplomat Rishikesh Shaha wrote how an unhappy New Delhi pressed for inclusion of provisions to end hereditary rule of Rana prime ministers, in Nepal’s first constitution in 1948.
Concerned with threat from China, India, since its independence, has taken keen interest in happenings in Nepal and tried to influence them sometimes successfully (and sometimes not) to its advantage. This policy continues to this day.
Such actions have in the past and even now led many Nepalis to believe their country’s fate could become that of Sikkim or Bhutan. New Delhi has not been able to correct that perception.
On the other hand, history shows how Nepal’s pro-democracy leaders fled the oppressive Rana regime at home, found refuge in India and got influenced by leaders like Gandhi and Nehru.
Leaders from Nepal still dash to New Delhi to seek support for their attempts at remaining in power or gaining it. India is still the first port of call for new Nepali prime ministers and many ministers and politicians routinely seek minor favours from the Indian Embassy.
Nepali leaders who seek favours from India, China and other influential western nations should know that there is no such thing as free lunch in international relations.
And Nepalis who blame India’s ‘omnipresent’ hand for most ills in their country need to understand this side of the story as well.