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Home / Editorials / The costs of anti-Indian nationalism in Nepal | HT Editorial

The costs of anti-Indian nationalism in Nepal | HT Editorial

Kathmandu wants a reset of ties. But this will harm its interests

editorials Updated: Jun 08, 2020 22:28 IST
Hindustan Times
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepalese counterpart Khadga Prasad Oli, New Delhi, April 7, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepalese counterpart Khadga Prasad Oli, New Delhi, April 7, 2018(Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

India’s political stand-off with Nepal over the Lipu Lekh border persists. Nepal’s Parliament is expected to pass a constitutional amendment to formalise a map to include territory, which is both claimed by India and has been under Indian control. This escalation on Nepal’s side has been coupled with a rise of strong anti-Indian nationalism. At the root of the discord is a simple question. India and Nepal have a “special relationship”. In practice, this has meant that India and Nepal share open borders; India allows Nepalis to work in India without restrictions; and Nepalis serve in the Indian Army. In turn, Nepal has both conceded, indirectly, a role for India in its domestic politics, and has been sensitive to Indian security interests.

The rise of ultra-nationalism and the emergence of a new generation of Nepali elite, which does not share the same emotional bond with India, mean Kathmandu wants a reset of ties now. But while India has benefited from the special ties too, this reset will have clear costs for Nepal. It can mean hard borders; it can mean restrictions on Nepalis from working in India; it can mean a reduction in bilateral support essential for Nepal’s development; and it can lead to political resistance from the Tarai, Nepal’s southern plains. Is Kathmandu ready for the costs that come with its focus on absolute sovereignty, a clear pro-China tilt, and belligerent nationalism? The dilution of the special relationship will harm both countries, but cause more damage to Nepal.

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