When the new constitution was promulgated in Nepal in 2015, the Madhesi people of the southern plains of the country formed a strong movement demanding change in the structure of political representation and federalism. They believed that this constitution would create a deeply unequal state. An Indian diplomat then asked a Madhesi representative, “Why aren’t you declaring your constitution? Only by doing that will Kathmandu be educated. We are with you. “
A year and a half later, in mid-2017, local elections were held in Nepal. The Madhesis were still waiting for the amendment of the constitution. They were reluctant to take part in this election as the constitution was recognized. An important Indian diplomat then told the Madhesi representative, “The responsibility of the Madhes is ours … you should surrender to the mainstream of Kathmandu, even if it means being a” second class citizen “… India’s only interest is to keep Kathmandu happy so that they lean towards China. Don’t fall. ‘
The story of India’s Nepal diplomacy is hidden in such contradictory messages. An explanation of the results of the recent elections in Nepal can also be found here. In this election, the ‘Communist Alliance’ has won the election by standing on the anti-India platform. It further explains how this has happened due to India’s inconsistency, short-term policy formulation, multilateral power centres, contradictory messages and lack of will. The point is, the last two years have seen five interrelated chapters in India’s Nepal policy.
The first stage is seen in the drafting of Nepal’s constitution through its main concerns. When Nepal’s hill elites almost drafted a constitution in August-September 2015, and when the Terai region began to heat up, Delhi sent a message to Kathmandu that an inclusive constitution should be drafted to address the concerns of the Madhesis. It was good as advice. Because, it will take into account the aspirations of all the people of Nepal, which is also good for India. Because, it will bring balance in the state structure based on anti-India nationalism. But it is too late. They have not been able to harness the influence they have had on Nepali parties, nor have they been able to form an opinion in their own country as to why an inclusive constitution is important. As a result, Nepal’s hill aristocracy drafted a constitution and India lost momentum.
India has been interfering in this process for a long time. India and its Madhesi allies then used the most powerful weapon, to put pressure on Kathmandu by cutting off supplies at the border, to amend the constitution. This caused a severe reaction in the mountains. And then the opportunity came to the hands of the then Prime Minister KP Oli, who then began to fan the flames of ultra-nationalism. At the same time, he extended his hand towards China to keep the door open. This also started criticism in India. The Congress took up arms and criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On the one hand, the arrow of sharp criticism and on the other hand, failing to achieve the goal, India pressed the Madhesis to lift the blockade. This created a victorious attitude in the conservative circles of Kathmandu. In other words, they have lost the ‘Brahmastra’ of India. And from here the people learned a very simple lesson; If anyone shouts against India or plays the Chinese card, India will move away in fear.
At this point, India decides that an inclusive constitution is not its priority. Rather, India must remove or “educate” Oli from the PM’s job. They persuaded Prachanda to withdraw from the alliance and form an alliance with the Nepali Congress. Then Delhi told the people of the country that everything was fine in Nepal.
As a last resort, India was able to persuade the Madhesi party to take part in the elections, although they were deeply dissatisfied with the constitution. As a result, the game with his two-year policy was in vain. In the process, another powerful part of India’s power structure was sending a different message to Nepal. They said India’s real interest was in the Hindu state, not an inclusive constitution.
Delhi thus defeated the Nepali elite. They lost their influence. They forced the Madhesis to adopt a system where they could never strike a balance. And Nepal opened the door for China. A transformation took place through this election. Nepal went from a partial sovereign state to an almost fully sovereign state, where Indian influence in Nepal’s internal politics was reduced to almost zero. The point is, India’s influence on Nepal’s new generation of politicians, civil society and opinion makers is waning. One part of them is related to the western world, the other part is deeply rooted in the Nepali speaking people.