- India-Nepal Policy. The article has been written by Kanak Mani Dixit, a writer and journalist based in Kathmandu.He has given suggestions that instead of competing, India should engage China vis-a-vis Nepal.
- It is time for India to shed the Himalayan paranoia, which it has experienced ever since the the 1962 debacle at the hands of China.
- It should focus towards an easier relationship with the sovereign neighbours, helping their evolution into stable democracies.
- It would also contribute to making India’s own Himalayan hinterland, from the Northeast to Kashmir, more part of the national mainstream.
A case for out Out-of-the-box statecraft
- India is challenged today in responding to a China activism in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and now Nepal.
- The Chinese challenge is real, but the ground has shifted with advances in the transport, infrastructure and geopolitics of High Asia, enough to demand a policy departure.
- New Delhi will have to calibrate its position between competing with, engaging, and strategically challenging Beijing.
- Connectivity is what India’s foreign policy establishment has been championing for the South Asian economies, and there is no reason why it should not be extended north by northeast, to Tibet and all the way to the Chinese mainland.
- In doing so, it should consider the advantages of the planned trans-Himalayan infrastructural connections, which will ultimately help India’s economy link to the Chinese mainland.
- Out-of-the-box statecraft would bring dividends in peace of mind, savings and economic growth.
- There is no need to fear that China will replace India’s pre-eminent role in Nepal’s economy, however.
- For one thing, the Chinese mainland and ports are 3,000 km away, as compared to 1,000 km to Kolkata.
- Meanwhile, the open Nepal-India border is a prize of shared history to be nurtured by both countries.
- In sociopolitical terms, Kathmandu’s civil society enjoys a comfort zone with India that the taciturn Chinese state cannot match.
- The arrival of Qingzang Railway from the Chinese mainland to the Tibetan plateau in 2006 has been the game changer, and the line has already been extended to Shigatse town and is ploughing westward and closer to Nepal’s border points.
- The railway makes the transfer of goods from the mainland economically feasible in a way that had never before been contemplated.
- It is set to create new commercial dynamics, especially as the lacking southward highways are constructed through Nepal’s mid-hills.
- Nepal and China have agreed to complete the Kyerung Highway starting northwest of Kathmandu, which would allow descent from the Tibetan plateau to the Gangetic plain in less than a day.
- There is also agreement to build the Kimathanka Highway down the Kosi river valley in eastern Nepal, which would bring the Shigatse/Lhasa railheads close to Bangladeshi and Indian ports.
What India should do?
- India would do well to add economics and commerce to its strategic vision of the Himalayan region.
- If New Delhi loosens up on Nepal with this understanding, it may be surprised to find that it retains Kathmandu as a steadfast partner while gaining market access to Tibet and the east Asia mainland through Nepal’s all-weather routes.
- The Himalayan region today represents a realm of opportunity more than competition, which requires New Delhi to be able to compartmentalise the commercial and the geostrategic.