Of the 28 million people that call Nepal home, only 15 million or so live in the turbulent Terai region – that’s already 13 million minus the total population of the country. And of that 15 million, only 30-32 percent people are believed to be Madhesis currently pitted against the Nepalese establishment. Interestingly, that agitation is being led by four leaders who have no public mandate whatsoever.
In simpler terms, the four leaders stoking violence in Terai (plains districts of Nepal) were big-time losers during Nepal’s last election. In political terms, Nepalese voters had deemed them completely unfit for public office. In blunt terms, they were rejected by the masses. Now they lead a movement on the back of which India has brought the landlocked country to an economic emergency as the southern neighbour remains accused of blockading Nepal’s import of essential commodities through its borders.
Why are these leaders being supported by India? What will it gain through ‘overt’ support of the movement which is affecting the day to day existence of the ordinary Nepalese people? A senior fellow of an Indian think tank has put these questions to the Modi Government.
Dr Rajiv Kumar’s column published by The Indian Expression is a question mark on the very political wisdom of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his government (indirectly) puts its weight behind Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato, Anil Jha and the very fierce Mahanta Thakur – the Failed Four.
Dr Kumar, an economist who has authored several books on India’s economy and national security, knows what is good for India. And according to his piece, there is no good for India in playing the Big Brother in relation to Nepal. He says the Modi government will do well by keeping away from the Madhesi movement and let Nepal sort its internal issue on its own. Claiming that Mr Modi’s neighbourhood policy is about too suffer a mortal blow, the founder of the Pahle India Foundation writes, “Can a sovereign parliament, after having passed such a vote, be expected to yield to overt outside pressure?”
While he argued that Nepal must revisit its newly-promulgated constitution (which he said Nepal was already on course to) in order to accommodate the rightful demands of the Madhesi people, Dr Kumar accused the Indian prime minister of reminding the Nepalese people of the 1989 ordeal when India had imposed similar sanctions on Nepal. But the current blockade is more severe than the previous one because Nepal now has more motorists than in 1989 who are being severely affected by the imbroglio and thereby resulting in a more severe anti-India sentiment, he argues.
“We should have kept economics and politics separate. The number of vehicles in Nepal is nearly 100 times that in 1989, and so the collateral damage and resentment against India will be greater. Even third-country imports into Nepal via India are now blocked, unlike in 1989,” the senior fellow of the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research invokes a page from Indo-Nepal history.
Softly hinting that India may see adverse effects should it continue to throw the Himalayan nation against the wall, Dr Kumar drew on the example of Vietnam, “No country is too small to defend its dignity. Remember Vietnam?”