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There goes the neighbourhood

All policy is a reflection of national culture. Indians as a lot are a self-satisfied variety, smug in their cultural superiority over other countries but easy to take offence.

Published: 31st May 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th May 2020 10:43 AM   |  A+A-

Narendra Modi, KP Sharma Oli

Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli (L) and Indian PM Narendra Modi. (File photo)

Which other country than India has 80 percent Hindus? Nepal. Which other country has a strong Shaivaite gestalt?

Nepal. The Pashupatinath Temple is as revered as Shri Kashi Vishwanath. Which other country respects the goddess tradition?

Where else does tantricism hold powerful sway? Or, where the Shaivite and the Vaishnavite merge into Buddhism? No need to phone a friend. Nepal is no longer one. In fact, India doesn’t have many friends in the hood.  

Ironically a country, which has rediscovered its Hindu identity, seems unable to dial down past hostility with Kathmandu.

India has earned the bitter ire of her neighbours, though historic and cultural ties go back millions of years.

Should a cheeky historian suggest that Indira Gandhi sent her troops across the eastern border to spite Pakistan more than to rescue Bengalis, perhaps it wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Indian foreign policy is too Pakistan-centric and personality-driven. In spite of all the help India has given its regional allies, even an experienced diplomat like S Jaishankar is hard pressed to stop Nepal from going the China way. The reason is simple: independent India’s hoary myopic arrogance. 

All policy is a reflection of national culture. Indians as a lot are a self-satisfied variety, smug in their cultural superiority over other countries but easy to take offence.

We crow over our deep spiritual wisdom, glorious traditions, ancient architecture, mathematics and pharmacological heritage while ignoring the core of successful engagement—courtesy.

For our national pride to overlook the national pride of neighbours is a costly mistake. While we are quick to show others the mirror, we forget that Atithi devo bhava has an outward looking face too.

We’ve lately managed to piss off long-standing friend Bhutan, too. In 2012, when its Prime Minister Jigme Thinley met Chinese PM Wen Jiabao during the Rio+20 Summit, India responded angrily by withdrawing fuel subsidies. It has been downhill from then on. Bhutan has begun to look China-ward.

As China amasses its forces along the LAC, the ghosts of 1962 are stirring in their icy graves. India currently has a golden opportunity to turn world opinion tide further against China, which is currently in Covid-19 disgrace.

Beijing’s disgustingly opaque dealing of the virus crisis, its refusal to accept responsibility for the contagion and current economic infirmity have provided Delhi with the perfect opportunity to recapture faded geopolitical clout.

Will it be Carpe Diem or simply carp on Nepal by ignoring the “Neighborhood First” policy?

India will come first only if it places its neighbours first. Little Brothers are always appreciative of largesse. They are playing second fiddle to China right now. 

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  • jayant

    what does the author mean by India should put neighbors first . Does he mean we should negotiaie our land with them because they are neighbors. Pl clarify.
    1 month ago reply
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