NEW DELHI: Facing criticism from Opposition MPs, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday rejected allegations of adopting a “big brotherly” approach towards Nepal and dismissed accusations that the Modi government was trying to foist a ‘Hindu monarchy’ on the Himalayan nation.
Fourteen speakers took part in the short duration discussion in the Rajya Sabha and most of the Opposition members expressed concern at the state of the relations with Nepal.
In reply, Swaraj said the English term ‘big brother’ does not apply to India’s relations with Nepal. Instead, it is the more appropriate Hindi term ‘Bade bhai’ (elder brother) – which is more reflective of the care the bigger South Asian country has for the tiny country, she explained.
“Instead (of Big Brother), we are adopting an elder brother’s approach, a caring and sharing approach,” she said, adding, “Like elder brother, our attitude is that of caring and sharing and not of showing arrogance, which is what a big brother does.” At one point in her speech, an irritated Swaraj asked, “some are accusing us of interfering in Nepal, others want us to intervene more forcefully. We are blamed either way!” She went to say that Nepal is a sovereign country and “we respect its sovereignty. We are not prescriptive but only give advice.”
She reiterated that India had not imposed a blockade on supplies when members expressed fears that shortage in essential commodities could impact the Nepalese population and contribute to growing anti-Indian sentiment in that country. “We are not inhuman... 11,206 trucks, loaded with supplies, are waiting at the Raxaul-Birganj border post. They are not able to move forward because of the protest and we are not allowing them to come back, thinking they could get some chance to proceed,” she said.
The minister noted the India was trying to send supplies through points which were not blocked, with 864 trucks having made their way to Nepal on Sunday. On the issue of medical supplies, Swaraj said India had repeatedly offered to airlift medicines to Nepal, but Kathmandu has still not furnished the list of drugs it wants. “We want to see a resolution through consensus so that supplies could be restored at the earliest,” Swaraj said.