When we take a look at our neighbours, we tend to think as to who is more friendly towards us. Except for Pakistan and China, we have warm relations towards almost every neighbouring country in our Indian subcontinent. However, there is one country, who once used to be our most trusted neighbour, but has now turned into an archnemesis of sorts, courtesy a series of events starting with the Rajiv Gandhi leadership that was once at the helm of power in our nation. The nation is none other than Nepal.
India shares extremely warm roots, both diplomatic and cultural with Nepal. It is here that one of the holiest deities, Gautam Buddha took birth. It is in Nepal that Devi Sita grew up, it is in Nepal where most of our rebels from the 1857 revolt. The erstwhile monarchy was also very warm towards us and they left no stone unturned in order to cement the warm relationship between the two nations, so much so that no visa was required to visit this neighbouring country. However, all this would change with the arrival of the 80s.
Indira Gandhi had been assassinated. Her son Rajiv had assumed power with a landslide majority. However, unlike his ancestors, Rajiv had no warmth for Nepal. Rather, he hated the monarchy that ruled the nation. Ex RAW chief Amar Bhushan mentioned that it was under Rajiv’s rule that movements to topple the Nepalese monarchy first began. To quote him, “The R&AW espionage was not just limited to ensure unity among various political parties with different ideologies but also raising assets in Nepal to carry out operations under utmost secrecy. Bhushan used a shadowy name Jeevnathan for the Chief of Eastern Bureau of R&AW, as it was known in 1989-90 to strengthen the fledgeling unit, recruit and run spies to throw out monarchy system run by King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev.
Then Rajiv Gandhi’s government decided to support the people’s movement in Nepal. Several rounds of diplomatic manoeuvres to pressurise Nepalese king did not work. Ultimately government resorted to put blockade of food supplies to force the King to institutionalise the democracy.”
However, this was not all. The Rajiv Gandhi government also took help of the Nepalese communists, despite knowing very well that most of them had sympathy for China. To add further to their woes, the Nepalese King took the help of China, which India never wished for in the first place.
To further quote the findings of Amar Bhushan’s book ‘Inside Nepal’, “In the meantime, King in a bid to offset India’s influence sought help from China. This was a double whammy for India as it never wished Chinese footprints in the neighbourhood. Finally, the task to ensure democracy was entrusted to R&AW Chief AK Verma, who went on to appoint his best spy- Jeevnathan to carry out Nepal’s operation.
The book reveals that R&AW spent considerable time in luring Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal also known as Prachanda to join hands with other political parties to put up a united fight against monarchy. Prachanda later went on to become Prime Minister of Nepal twice in 2008 and 2016.”
Apart from using the RAW to destroy the Nepalese monarchy, the Indian government under Rajiv Gandhi also imposed economic sanctions on Nepal in the late 1980s. To quote an article from The Diplomat, “A more suitable example could be the 1989 blockade imposed by then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, supposedly due to Kathmandu’s growing closeness with China, as was seen in Nepal’s procurement of Chinese anti-aircraft guns at the time. As a result, New Delhi managed to persuade Nepal to drop the party-less panchayat system, paving the way for political parties-led governance, though still under the monarchy. The people of Nepal were also against the panchayat system, and, more importantly, the Nepali Congress-led the movement for the new political system, which was more reassuring to New Delhi.”
This reveals the fact that not only was Rajiv Gandhi was an incompetent PM, but he was also a short-sighted diplomat. We need no introduction to how we suffered due to his antics in Srilanka, where he sent the IPKF in order to quell the LTTE insurgency. Thanks to the majestic rule of Rajiv, not only did Nepal turned into a hostile neighbour, but it also provided a breeding ground for both the Chinese interests and the terrorists, who use the landlocked country as their launchpad for infiltrating terrorists into India.
Today, Nepal is more of a hostile neighbour than a trusted friend, all thanks to the tenure of a man, who simply did not know how to handle international relations effectively. If Nepal is slowly falling into the trap of the ever greedy China, it is also because of the way Rajiv Gandhi handled the helm of affairs at that time, thus making Nepal from a trusted friend into a hostile enemy.