India-Nepal Relations : Culturally United, Divided Politically

India-Nepal Relations : When the King of Ayodhya, Ram married the daughter of Raja Janak, Sita from Nepal’s Jankapuri, India and Nepal tied themselves in an unbreakable cultural bond. However, coming to 2020 India-Nepal though culturally connected seems to be politically divided.

Ever since the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, India and Nepal have had a cordial relationship with each other. Nepal shares border with over five states of India, encouraging and enhancing a cultural and economic exchange. Open borders, and free movement between the two countries is symbolic of the deep-rooted trust and friendship the two countries have always shared. As many as 6 million people from Nepal are working or staying in India.

Nepal is situated right in between India’s ‘Himalayan frontiers’ and protects India from any kind of direct attack from up north, that is from China. The position of Nepal is key in protecting the country’s national security. India has also always supported the Nepalese army by providing them with proper training and equipment.

What Changed between India-Nepal Relations ?

While the open borders and easy commute in between the two country remains easily possible, sometimes it can also lead to many problems between the two countries as the national security can be threatened. In recent days this can be easily experienced. Nepal recently issued a new political map displaying Indian regions of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as part of their territory. The move came after India started building road connecting India to China via Lipulekh as a part of Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage route.

Since the communist party of KP Oli took over the governance of Nepal, the relationship between India-Nepal has been strained. The interference of China in Nepal’s politics can be easily seen. If Nepal and China continue to grow their relationship, it may create a problem for India, as Indian influence in the country might diminish. The open border and easy pass can anytime be misused. However, at the same time, Nepal may find itself sandwiched between two Asian giants, India and China.

India-Nepal relationship soured since 2015, when India imposed an unofficial blockade along the India-Nepal border. Nepal which depended on export from India for almost everything was forced to look for an alternative to India. The blockade opened a door for China into Nepal. It must be remembered that India is Nepal’s largest trade partner and the largest source of foreign investments. Nepal’s total trade with India was about US$8.2 billion; Nepal’s exports to India were about US$446.5 million; and imports from India were about US$7.7 billion.

In recent days, when China and India are engaged in confrontation, Nepali citizens has started to show their discontent against India. Social media in Nepal is full of #BackOffIndia trends. However, it must be remembered that the road which is considered as bone of contention between India and Nepal was certainly not built in a day. But PM Oli used this opportunity to turn the table from his bad management towards something that will unite the whole country and bring it to his side. Communist PM Oli, dancing to the tune of China played a nationalist card against India just to hide his ill management of the nation.

India and Nepal’s bilateral relationship is extremely valuable as both the countries have a lot of export and import, exchange of resources and even a cultural exchange. The “Roti-Beti” relationship between India and Nepal was established long before the existence of border. Government come, government go but relationship between India-Nepal will remain if not politically but culturally.

India-Nepal Relations : Culturally United, Divided Politically

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