April 05, 2005

Watch they Neighbour

The Telegraph, 05.04.2005

Pratap Bhanu Mehta hits the nail on its head when he talks about the China factor in the crisis that has gripped Nepal (“Losing Kathmandu”, March 30). It is evident that one of China’s prime motives behind cosying up to King Gyanendra is to somehow establish a decisive foothold in Nepali politics, and to replace the clout Delhi currently holds in the king’s court. Beijing’s sole aim is to encircle India with hostile banana republics, and as Mehta points out, we are too slow to react to the threat.

The author also talks about the hegemonic image India has projected of itself in the subcontinent. However, he is mistaken when he suggests that India needs to look at its neighbours as equals, rather than subordinate to its interests. A comparable situation exists in North America — while the Mexicans and Canadians look at the United States of America as an overbearing force, there is little they can do. For there exists a complex economic relation between these countries and the US, which they cannot afford to disrupt. For our long-term interest, we need to develop a similar trading network. A sincere boost to the South Asian Free Trade Association would be a good starting point. As far as Nepal is concerned, Mehta is right that we need to maintain a reasonable distance from both parties (while ensuring there is no infiltration into Indian territory) and make it crystal clear that any government will have to unveil a constitutional council and establish friendly relations with India.

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