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Nepal–India: Overload

editPrime Minister Pushpakamal Dahal “Prachanda” pays his pilgrimage to India this week. Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat is there presumably on a preparatory trip. A Deputy Prime Minister was there a fortnight back. All this within a month after Dhahal assumed office. Merely months before this, hectic efforts were undertaken by the K.P. Oli government in the Nepal-India front. Delegations were exchanged, public and private visits were conducted, foreign ministerial and then prime ministerial visits took place. Oli claimed he had smoothed relations and understanding jeopardized by the ‘undeclared’ Indian embargo on Nepal. Dahal’s Maoist Centre was part of that government as well. For the past decade now Nepal-India relations have received so much public focus that it is as if Nepali politics revolves around just this. Part of this is India’s making. Its ‘micro- management’ of Nepali politics was perhaps designed to achieve just this. Nepali politics, on the other hand, cannot absolve itself from having been entrapped in this design. For Nepal-India relations, this is unhealthy. If the Nepali politician has been exposed so thoroughly in the eyes of the Nepali public, the Indian role in this cannot have been hidden altogether. The public are the most vulnerable to the excessive publicity being accounted to bilateral relations that takes the lion’s share of public discussions as to the underachievement of the past decades.
Small countries tend to highlight foreign policy. It is deemed good politics because of the limitations of options in foreign policy. But, when the focus is so overwhelming and the expectations raised are so high and diverse, the shortfall in performance is bound to do harm. It is bound to harm both domestic and foreign policy. There is no harm in Dahal going to Delhi and there can be good in Dahal going to Delhi. But going to Delhi is not just the mission. The mission is in making the trip productive for the health of Nepal-India ties. For, this, expectations must be tempered with the realization that good relations mean confident relations. Unfortunately, Nepali politics is such that confidence levels have been radically eroded to the extent that it cannot but be projected in the foreign policy front. Perhaps it is this that prompts our government and politics to insist on focusing on foreign policy. Diplomacy has decorum and is hardly the rough and tumble free- for- all that typifies Nepali politics of the day. But foreign policy cannot be distanced from national policy and politics. In a very round about way Nepal-India ties are falling victim to Nepali politics. This is dangerous. To what extent Dahal’s trip can extricate Nepal-India relations from this entrapment will determine the success of his visit. We wish him and Nepal-India ties well.

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