The ruling Communist government in Nepal continues to needle India, and this time Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel has made some exceptionable remarks. First, the Nepalese government hampered India’s security interests by raking up the minor Kalapani border dispute at the behest of China, after India inaugurated the Dharchula-Lipulekh road close to the Sino-India border. And now, Nepal’s Defence Minister has gone a step further by provoking the Gorkhas against the Indian Army.
Reacting to the Indian Army Chief Manoj Naravane’s remark about Nepal raking up a minor border dispute with India at someone’s behest, Pokhrel said that the Army Chief’s remarks were “condemnable”. He added, “With this, the Indian Chief of the Army Staff has also hurt the sentiments of the Nepali Gorkha army personnel who lay down their lives to protect India. It must now be difficult for them to stand tall in front of the Gorkha forces.”
This is the first time that the Nepal government has dragged the Gorkhas into the ongoing diplomatic tussles between the two countries. The Gorkhas have a history of sacrifice and bravery in the Indian Army and the Gorkha regiments draw soldiers mainly from the ethnic Gorkha community of Nepal. A number Nepali Gorkhas are also recruited by the Indian Army. That the Oli government should incite Gorkhas, shows how it is unabashedly turning the country into Nepal’s Client State.
What Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli doesn’t understand is that his and his cabinet’s invidious remarks against India are going to put him in a very tight spot.
India has kept the Nepal border open owing to the centuries-old cultural ties with the landlocked country. But KP Sharma Oli has no qualms in hurting India’s strategic position on the Sino-India border, and emboldened by China, his Lieutenant is trying to provoke tussles in the Indian Army.
Why should India have any qualms in shutting down the border? After all, it doesn’t make any sense for New Delhi to keep its borders open with a country that is becoming a Client State of India’s adversary, China. China is currently engaged in border disputes and larger geopolitical struggles with India and it could be a strategic blunder for India to allow unhindered movement with one of Beijing’s client States.
Millions of Nepalese migrant workers earn a living in India, and send remittances to the Himalayan country. If there is a change in this position and people-to-people ties which are at the core of Indo-Nepal relations get hampered, these migrants will ultimately blame Oli for it.
Borders, open or not, the pro-Communist and anti-India political narrative dominating Nepal today is going to evoke a reaction in India. There is no guarantee that India’s government and people will continue to place as much trust in the Nepalese people as they do today.
Continuing recruitment of the Nepalese Gorkhas in the Indian Army could also become a tricky issue for India. Even the Nepali-origin Gorkhas who have been living in India for generations might have to suffer all because of Oli. If Nepal continues to instigate the Gorkha community, India’s military establishment would have to take a call.
The Gorkhas have been demanding a separate state in West Bengal since 1907 on the ground that they are ethnically different from West Bengal. The BJP has not promised separate statehood, but it has been sympathetic towards the Gorkhas’ cause.
By targeting the Gorkhas in India and provoking them against India, the Communist government in Nepal has also dragged back their statehood demand by several decades. Not only the Nepalese Gorkhas, but the Gorkhas living in India are also ultimately going to realise that they are getting affected only because of one man- KP Sharma Oli. It is Oli who is compelling New Delhi to be Argus-eyed and the Gorkhas might suffer because of him.
With Pokhrel’s below the belt attempt to instigate disaffection towards India among the Gorkhas, KP Sharma Oli has made himself an object of ridicule for many generations to come. He might very soon become the most hated Prime Minister in Nepal for provoking India to take unimaginable steps to protect its security interests.