NEW DELHI: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday that India was an “elder brother” rather than a “big brother” to Nepal, even as Nepali Prime Minister K P Oli strenuously denied playing any ‘India or China’ card.
In her introductory speech to the lecture by Oli at the Indian Council of World Affairs, Swaraj stated that “few people” who don’t want good bilateral relations between the two neighbours always drone on that India maintains a “big brother” attitude towards Nepal.
Sushma said that in Hindi, the meaning of ‘Big brother’ is ‘elder brother’, which has benign connotations. “But the construct of big brother is a western one. Its Indian translation is elder brother. We view it from a different perspective. ‘Big brother’ is egotist whereas ‘elder brother’ shows concern. Elder brother tries to assist you in solving your problems. India is that elder brother who will never become the cause of your difficulties and will assist you. I welcome you as the elder sister of that elder brother,” she said in her inimitable style.
She repeatedly praised the political leadership in Nepal and Oli for promulgating the new constitution.
The Minister, then, noted that a “few issues did crop up”. “I want to reiterate my gratitude to the Nepali political leadership that taking their (Madhesis’) demand as legitimate, they passed two amendments under the leadership of Sushil Koirala,” she said.
In his speech, Oli said that there were perception that Nepal plays the China card against India and vice versa. The Nepali PM said that his government remained “firm in our commitment of not allowing any hostile activities on our soil directed against India”.
“The open border is our common asset,” he said.
Oli added that the sanctity of the ‘No Man’s Land’ had to be maintained “so that the true spirit of open border remains alive in practical terms under all circumstances”. This was perhaps a barb at India for allowing the Madhesi agitators to take over ‘No man’s land’ for weeks, which had led to a severe shortage in essential commodities in Nepal.