The issue of Kashmir has remained the most important geo-strategic issue of the region, and because it challenges regional peace and stability, every nation of South Asia has its eyes on it. The notion of trespassing the nuclear threshold between the nuclear-armed neighbours has increased its significance.
Nepalese, having the same religious ties, are also the followers of Kautaliya who coined the saying, ‘the enemy of your enemy is your friend’. Since 2015, Nepal has been working to improve its ties with Pakistan despite facing consequential threats from the Indian side. Especially after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, Nepal’s foreign office has issued many statements which focused on the resolution of Kashmir dispute through talks. They also offered to fulfil the role of a mediator to resolve the dispute between India and Pakistan. The Indian attempt which led the two South Asian neighbours to part ways was the building of the Himalayan link road over a disputed area between the states. Nepalese view this illegal construction as a stark example of bullying by its giant neighbour. According to data available online, the views of Nepalese people over the issue of Kashmir is such that they want local Kashmiris to come to the front and decide what suits them, as its their inherent right. To secure its strategic interests, Nepal declared the revocation of Article 370 and 35A as internal matter of India, but protests and demonstrations took place in Nepal against the Indian decision. Multiple talks have been held on diplomatic grounds between Nepal and Pakistan to discuss the issue and highlight the Indian atrocities in Kashmir.
Refraining from issuing an official statement, Nepal has tried to bring neutrality in its relations with India and Pakistan. The India-Nepal dispute on the territory of Kalapani has somehow contributed to their diverging paths. The layman thinking in Nepal has been supportive towards the Kashmir struggle. The population recognizes India’s intent and its capacity to subjugate their individual rights, however, like every other state, Nepal has its own interests which drive its foreign policy. Nepal has been vigilant since its clash with India over the disputed territory and they have clearly conveyed to India that their autonomy is of foremost importance through official statements.
The issue of Kashmir has its relevance with the Nepalese as many of them are working in Kashmir and Ladakh in the tourism industry. There are many Nepalese serving in the Indian army as well. It’s in the best interest of Nepal that any warmongering attitudes over Kashmir should be given talked down, as a war in Kashmir would be lethal for Nepal as well.
Another important factor to note here is the fact that if the Nazist Modi along with his team can change the special status of Kashmir, they can also pursue a reversal attempt on Nepal’s secular constitution. BJP has outspokenly reiterated that Nepal should become a Hindu state and pushed it to revive the Hindu monarchy again, which was abolished in 2008. Nepal has adopted a secular constitution as a solution to its internal conflicts and to evade any chance of instability. Indian intentions are clearly against the vision of autonomous and secular Nepal. Supporting the issue of Kashmir could strengthen the locals’ trust in the Nepalese government, as it would show that the government is against demolishing provincial autonomy. This move from the rulers of Kathmandu could help them enhance the ties between the people and the government.
The aforementioned facts prove that Indian plans for Nepal were far from well-intentioned, and that they wanted to hijack its autonomy for their strategic aims. Nepal being a sovereign state should realize that temporary economic assistance should not restrict them from taking decisions which have international importance. The issue of Kashmir has ties to Nepal on both humanitarian as well as strategic grounds. Nepal was chairing SAARC when the Indian government removed the special status of Kashmir. Considering Kashmir a vital issue for regional stability, it was Nepal’s responsibility as it held a position in the regional co-operation regime, which they tried to manage by maintaining equilibrium. The stance of the government officials was careful, after learning a lesson from the Venezuelan affair which led to a diplomatic fallout with the United States of America. While the government of Nepal was planning to issue a statement on the situation, India put diplomatic pressure on Nepal through government officials and Nepal’s ambassador to India. Though the offer of mediation was an overwhelming response from Nepal but being the chair of SAARC, they should have taken a more robust stance to preserve the rights of Kashmiris. The Indian aim for an Akhand Bharat is detrimental for the Nepalese. In fact, Indian motives for a greater India are a threat to every state in the South Asian region. Nepal should learn from the past and try to formulate policy measures which suit their interests rather than continuing collaboration with India. A neutral stance in any regional issues is no doubt a good way to escape from any conflict, but an issue like Kashmir which has direct political and strategic affiliation with Nepal should be dealt with a broader approach. Nepal should strengthen its ties with states like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh on equal terms. It need to get out of diplomatic influence if it want to enhance its power status in the region, and the Kashmir issue could be an opportunity for Nepal to abnegate Indian intransigence.