July 15, 2012
Yesterday, in India, Pentagon Security International published India's Neighbourhood: Challenges in the Next Two Decades. It was brought out by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) – a government-supported think tank – and edited by Ashok K Behuria and Rumel Dahiya of the Institute. The book was launched by Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.
Anyone interested in Nepal’s relationship with India should take a look at it.
The chapters in the book take a prospective look at India's neighborhood, as it may evolve by 2030. They underline the challenges that confront Indian policymakers, the opportunities that are likely to emerge, and the manner in which they should frame foreign and security policies for India, to maximize the gains and minimize the losses.
There are nine major chapters devoted to India’s neighboring countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
In the case of Nepal, the book cautions the Indian government against micromanaging Nepali politics. The perception that this is what has been going on in Delhi has greatly contributed to anti-Indianism in Nepal.
From the book’s Introduction:
“Will the present comprehensive political, economic and social transformation underway in Nepal have a positive impact on India-Nepal relations? Despite the current political crisis emanating from the inconclusive process of Constitution making, in the next 20 years, a new Nepal will emerge. It is likely to be republican and more democratic. This could pave the way for a deeper and friendlier relationship between India and Nepal. But uncertainties remain. The new political system has not yet crystallized as the Constitution has yet to be finalized. The Maoists have been mainstreamed to a considerable extent and have contributed two Prime Ministers in the last three years. However, the big questions relating to federalism, the form of the Constitution, language, economic system, etc., are still unresolved. The next 20 years will most likely be taken up by the long and complicated process of nation-building.
“Anti-Indianism in Nepal, hydro-electricity and open borders are the three major issues studied in this volume. Because India is a major factor in the life of an ordinary Nepali, anti-Indianism is a fact of political life in Nepal. While millions of Nepalis benefit from close relations with India, the media and political parties routinely accuse India of interference in their country. It is unlikely that this tendency will disappear altogether. Likewise, cooperation for the generation of hydro-electricity, which could benefit both Nepal and India, has become a symbol of mistrust rather than a catalyst for friendship. This is likely to continue as the Nepalese people regard water as their most important resource which they would not allow to be ‘exploited’ by India. Open borders, which bring so much benefit to India and Nepal and are a unique symbol of friendship between the two countries, have become criminalized. In the business as usual scenario, Indo-Nepal relations will continue to be bedeviled by these factors.
“However, it is possible to imagine scenarios where India emerges as a key contributor to prosperity in Nepal. India will need to review its policies and take steps to correct the existing impression as an interfering neighbour. Indian assistance should go towards building Nepal’s economy and society irrespective of which party or coalition is in power. India’s role should be that of a trusted partner in Nepal.
“On the negative side, continued uncertainty in Nepal could push it into a deep crisis. In such a scenario, China’s influence might grow. The unrest in Tibet could also fuel instability in Nepal. India’s endeavour should be to involve Nepal in regional cooperation projects. India will also need to shield its own Nepali speaking areas from instabilities in Nepal. India should avoid getting drawn into Nepal-Bhutan tensions. India will have to craft policies that would mitigate the negative effects of an unstable Nepal and the growing influence of China.
“The game changing event that can be imagined in Nepal could be the inability of the political leaders to resolve the federal issue that is causing major and minor revolts, particularly in Madhesh, close to the Indian border. The federal question could result in fragmentation of Nepal. The growing influence of China in Nepal could be a factor in Indo-Nepal relations. India might perceive Chinese presence in Nepal to be an acute security dilemma. India will need to prepare itself for meeting such eventualities which may have low probability but high impact.”
The key findings that emerge from this volume are: the geopolitical situation in the neighbourhood is likely to change significantly due to uncertainties in the global economy, chronic instability in the Af-Pak region, increasing salience of external factors in regional politics, continuing anti-India sentiments in some of the countries, demographic pressures, growth in illegal migration, and adverse consequences of climate change. However, there are also signs of greater desire for economic integration, strengthening of democratic institutions in some countries, and emphasis on regional cooperation. While India may face increasing security challenges due to instability in certain countries, there will be an opportunity for it to better integrate its economy with the region.
To purchase the book or download the e-book follow this link:
Publisher: Pentagon Security International
Price: Rs. 995