Sunday, January 23, 2011

India Should Leave Its Neighbours Alone

India being a large country with a big economy has got a greater responsibility to keep peace with its neighbours and help promote development in the South Asian Region.

India expects that the neighbouring countries should be sensitive to India's security concerns and should not allow their territories to be used against India. Similarly, India should also be sensitive and refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbours, said Professor Prakash A Raj, Vice-President of the Nepal Council of World Affairs.

He was in Dhaka last week to attend a regional conference on peace and development in South Asia. "There are many changes here in Bangladesh", Professor Rai said while recalling his earlier visit as a member of the Royal entourage of late Kind Birendra thirty years ago.

In an exclusive interview with the Holiday, Professor Prakash A. Rai pointed out that India had brokered peace agreement in Nepal bringing together the Maoists and the alliance of seven political parties of the country to sign an accord in New Delhi in November 2005, although it was for the Nepalese people to decide their own political course.

Apparently by brokering the accord with the Maoists in Nepal, the Indian government had hoped that the Naxalite insurgents active in several Indian states would also give up arms and follow the example of Nepalese Moists, Profesor Rai said adding that Naxalite insurgency in Andra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Bihar and armed rebels in the north-eastern provinces of India are the major security problem for India.

Referring to the current political crisis in Nepal, Professor Rai said that if the Maoists believe in democracy, they must not return to jungle. The trouble began in Kathmandu with the Maoists demanding induction of the rebels in the regular army. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chief of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) resigned early this month to protest the president's rejection of the Nepalese government's sacking of the army chief. The army chief had been resisting the integration of the former rebel fighters into the military as required under the India brokered 2006 peace agreement. The former combatants of Maoists' Peoples' Liberation Army (PLA) continue to remain in cantonments and are being monitored by the UN mission.

"In the process of political development, Indian Ambassador to Nepal held meeting with Dahal and requested him not to remove the Army chief, which was a clear interference into Nepal's internal affair," Professor Rai observed.

Meanwhile, an alliance of 22 political parties claimed to have enough support to form a new coalition government in Nepal and called for a vote to elect its candidate as the new prime minister.

Alliance leaders say a government without the Maoists would be difficult to run and have tried to convince them to join a new coalition. However, the Maoists have insisted on the army chief's removal before any negotiation.

The former rebels have also threatened to continue disrupting parliament with protests by their lawmakers inside the assembly hall.

Professor Rai understands that a new coalition government without the Maoists' participation might create instability in Nepal and also disrupt the democratic politics escalating insecurity in the region.
Referring to India's foreign policy failures, the Professor said "Indian Peacekeeping force in Sri Lanka failed in its objectives and was forced to withdraw indicating a major policy failure".

On other front, according to professor Prakash Raj, when Bangladesh wants Nepal to be involved in the augmentation of Ganges water, India opposes it on the plea of its being "a bilateral issue" between India and Bangladesh knowing fully well that major river systems of the region have their origin in Nepal.

The just concluded election in India with the Congress giving another chance to rule would make the India "more assertive" in pursuing their policies in respect towards its neighbours, Professor Raj said.

He observed that the increased presence of the US forces in South Asia and the strategic partnership between India and the US have given rise to new dynamics in the peace and development process in the region. The South Asian nations should keep in mind that the US would not be here for long and the problems facing the region must be faced by the countries themselves in their own soil, he asserted.