The costs of anti-Indian nationalism in Nepal – editorials
India’s political confrontation with Nepal over the Lipu Lekh border persists. The Nepalese Parliament is expected to pass a constitutional amendment to formalize a map that includes the territory, which both India claims and has been under Indian control. This escalation on the Nepal side has been combined with an increase in 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 Nepalese to work in India without restrictions; and the Nepalese serve in the Indian army. In turn, Nepal has indirectly granted India a role in its internal politics, and has been sensitive to Indian security interests.
The rise of ultra-nationalism and the rise of a new generation of the Nepalese elite, who do not share the same emotional bond with India, means that Kathmandu wants to reestablish ties now. But while India has also benefited from special ties, this restoration will have clear costs for Nepal. It can mean hard borders; it may mean restrictions for Nepalese to work in India; it may mean a reduction in essential bilateral support for Nepal’s development; and may lead to political resistance in Tarai, the plains of southern Nepal. Is Kathmandu ready for the costs that come with its focus on absolute sovereignty, a clear pro-China bent, and belligerent nationalism? The dilution of the special relationship will harm both countries, but will cause more harm to Nepal.