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Seminar                         Summary Reports   


Indo-Afghanistan      

Geo-political Contest in Afghanistan and its impact on India ’s Interests

"Strategic Options" by Brig Rahul Bhonsle (Retd)

"The Regional Contest" by                 Dr Shanthie D’Souza

"The Afghan Riddle" by Shri Hormis Tharakan 

"The Way Forward" by 

 Ambassador S K Lambah, IFS (Retd)

Indo-China       

CHina's Defense Modernisation: Implications for India 

"Upgradation of Chinese Forces- Implications by

Mr. D.S. Rajan

"Missile and Space Modernisations" by 

Prof R.  Nagappa,

"A Strategic Review" by Air Chief Marshal Fali Major (Retd)

"Economic Implications " by 

Prof Srikanth Kondapalli

"The Way Forward" by Amb. C.V. Ranganathan

Indo-Iran              
Complexities of the situation of Iran: India's strategic interests and options

"A Historical Perceptive" by           Amb. Akbar Mirza Khaleeli                          "A Strategic perspective" by           Vice Admiral (Retd)         P J Jacob                            "A Media perspective" by Shri Kesava Menon. 

Indo-Myanmar     
Indo-Myanmar security relations: Measures to improve trade and economic ties

Presentations by:

Col. R Hariharan (Retd),  

Dr Sayed Ali Mujtaba,  

Shri T P Sreenivasan,  

Indo-Nepal              
Developments in Nepal: impact on India

Presentations by:

  "A Security Assessment" by            B. Raman

  "The Current Scenario" by               Shri K V Rajan, IFS (Retd)

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd. Ashok K. Mehta  

  "Current Situation and its import" by     Shri Gururaj Rao


Recent developments in Nepal and their impact on India's security

Presentations by:

  "The Political Scenario" by Dr. Arvind Kumar

  "Analysis of Political events" by Dr. Smruti Pattanaik 

  "Implications for India" by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee

  "Strategic Analysis and Opinions "by Maj. Gen (Retd.) Ashok K. Mehta

Indo-Pakistan       

Whither Pakistan?

"The Crisis in Pakistan"  by

Captain Alok Bansal, IN

"A security assessment" by 

Shri S Gopal

"A Strategic Overview" by M K Bhadrakumar, IFS (Retd)

"Whither Pakistan?" by Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd)

Indo-Russia             

India-Russia strategic relations in the new world order 

     

" Vision and Realityby Ambassador Shri Rajiv Sikri  (Retd)

" Historical Perceptive and Current Realities"

by Amb. A Madhavan, IFS (Retd)

"Defence Cooperation Aspectsby

Air Marshal N Menon (Retd)

Indo-US        
Changing contours of Indo-US relations: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities

Presentations by:

"A strategic review"  by Dr. Brahma Chellaney

" A historic perspective"

by Amb. Krishnan, IFS (Retd)

"India's options in the global senario" by

Lt Gen S. S Mehta

"Indo-US core interests" by

Shri Aravind Sitaraman

 

Look East Policy  

Impediments to India's Look-East policy’: suggested remedies

" India's Look-East Policy: Vision and Reality"  by Ambassador Shri C.V Ranganathan (Retd)

 

" Impediments to India’s Look-East Policy – China’s Reservations and Suggested Remedies Realities"

by Shri. D.S. Rajan  

 

"Maritime Aspects of our Look-East Policyby

Vice Admiral (Retd)   P J Jacob

Seminar Summary Report

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN NEPAL AND THEIR IMPACT ON INDIA’S SECURITY

 

  As compiled by Shri A Madhavan, former ambassador of India and a current member of Asia Centre;

  3 April 2006 IAS officer’s Association, # 1, Infantry Road, Bangalore -1

           Asia Centre has been conducting a series of seminars and discussions to review India ’s Security environment in the Sub-continent. As a part of this of Series, a seminar was held on 08 April 2006 from 10 A M to 1 P M on the topic “Recent Developments in Nepal and their Impact on India's security” at the I A S Officers’ Institution, # 1 Infantry Road , Bangalore . The seminar was presided by Shri A P Venkateswaran, former Foreign Secretary and chairman of Asia Centre.

The following distinguished speakers addressed the seminar: -

 

"The Political Scenarioby

Dr. Arvind Kumar, National Institute of Adanced Studies

"Analysys of political events" by                                                                                                     Dr. Smruti Pattanaik Research fellow, Inst. for defense studies and analysis                                                             

"Implications for India"                                                                                                             Maj.Gen (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee, Dir. Institute of peace and conflict studies.                                                                                             

Strategic Analysis and Opinions" by                                                                                                   Maj. Gen (Retd.) Ashok K. Mehta, Historian and commentator on Nepal

The presentations were followed by a lively discussion session. Nearly 45 Asia Centre members and invitees drawn from retired officers of Indian Administrative Service, Foreign Service & Defense Services, academics and scientists attended the seminar.

This report summarises the essence of the presentations and the discussions that followed.


INTRODUCTION.

Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Ravi Eipe, Director of Asia Centre, introduced the speakers in a topical discussion, the third of a series of seminars on India ’s neighbours. The first two meets covered the relations of Bangladesh and of Pakistan with India

Shri A.P. Venkateswaran, Chairman of Asia Centre, introduced the seminar as the last in the series held by the Centre on India ’s relations with Bangladesh , Sri Lanka , Pakistan and Nepal .  This seminar is held at a time when the relations between India and the US have improved and a basis of friendship has been laid.  Lt. Gen. Eipe introduced each of the four speakers in turn. A brief account of the four presentations and the discussion is given below.

 The Political Scenario

By Dr. Arvind Kumar

He had recently returned from Nepal , where he had met politicians of different parties, academics, palace officials and others and discussed issues of both domestic and foreign policy.  He briefly reviewed the history of Nepal since the revival of the monarchy, and the reign of three kings.

 After the accession of King Gyanendra, brother of the assassinated King Birendra on June 4, 2001 , the new king effectively marginalised the political parties.  They were partly to blame, being diffident in carrying forward the parliamentary polity, which became discredited because of their mutual mistrust.  In the political space thus created, the Maoists gained prominence by violent attacks against the unpopular regime and won the confidence of the common people in the countryside whose interests had been consistently neglected by the state.

Some academics believe that the recently forged Seven Party Alliance (SPA) will not last. 

India has generally followed the same approach to Nepal as the British Raj.  One sign of India ’s neglect is that no Indian prime minister has visited Nepal after A.B.Vajpayee.  This has contributed to the anti-Indian feelings among the Nepalese. 

Nepal is isolated in its foreign policy, in the view of some academics.  It was a wrong signal for India to supply arms to Nepal during this crisis.  Many are critical of the US . India ’s policy is thought to be ambiguous.  In this circle, a wish is expressed that India should take an active role in overthrowing King Gyanendra. 

The speaker listed certain options in Nepal ’s future course.  1) A multi-party system, with a ceremonial role for a monarchy shorn of executive power.  2) A multi-party republic with no kingship.  3) The old status quo.  4) A Maoist takeover.  5) A polity similar to the Pakistani model. 6) ‘People’s power’, with the Maoist insurgents ascendant. 

How should India react to the developments unfolding in Nepal ?  The vexing dilemma was whether to support the existing two ‘pillars’ of constitutional monarchy and the multi-party parliamentary system concurrently or to let the monarchy collapse when the occupant of the throne had been so recklessly plunging the country into chaos. But developments were not in India ’s hands.   The links between the Maoists of Nepal and the Naxalites who are terrorising civilians in several states of India are indeed a security hazard.  It is impractical to close the open border between India and Nepal over the length of 1800 km. Each policy option has its costs, its risks and its possible benefits. 

The consensus among the Nepalese that is emerging favours the ending of the 55-year history of the monarchy and a reliance on a multi-party republic. 

Analysis of political events

  By Dr. Smruti Pattanaik.

  The speaker was critical of ‘knee-jerk reactions’ of the Indian government to the developments.  India cannot afford to be hegemonic and interfere in Nepal ’s affairs, but it must fashion a clear-cut approach to the growing unrest and turmoil there.  The popular demands are for elections to a Constituent Assembly and a new constitution.  The King has urged his own concept of a partly nominated National Conference.  But the royal coup by which the King declared an emergency and assumed executive power on February 1, 2005 , together with his control of the Royal Nepal Army, have thwarted attempts to resolve the crisis. 

The speaker sketched the political events since the popular movement since April 6, 1990 , which led to the restoration of parliamentary democracy.  There were no less than 14 governments since 1992.  Each of them wanted just to stay in power, not to strive for decent governance.  The same leaders remained in office though regimes changed.  The panchayat system piloted by the king made no effective difference.  The Left gained in mass appeal. It was also better organised as a defined structure of power.  Against the unorganised state set-up, it was more effective in protest than the government was in administration.

  The Maoists started by taking on the police first, with the King and the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) remaining rather passive.  They have conducted an armed struggle since 1996.  The army Chief wanted the political parties to reach a consensus to defeat the Maoists.

 The politicians knew that no credible elections could be arranged in six months.  The municipal elections of February 10, 2006 hardly inspired confidence, since the turnout was low, and Maoists were in control in some regions.  No government was sustainable and no coalition was steady in governance.

 The Seven Party Alliance was willing to negotiate with the Maoists, but the monarchical regime did not give it the space.  The King adamantly opposed any such deal.

 

 Indian policy was to keep a channel open to the Maoists and to avoid exclusive reliance on any single entity in the polity, but also to allow the Seven Party Alliance to reach a consensus with the Maoists.

 After the royal coup or takeover of complete power in February 2005, the groundswell of anti-monarchical opinion became stronger.  The king would not accept a constitutional status reduced to a merely ceremonial and religious role.  Meanwhile, it was evident that the seven parties were not united.  They could hardly be expected to maintain solidarity.  The Maoist role in a future set-up is unclear.  The Maoists made a provisional tactical decision to set aside their differences with the political parties and to accept the democratic model which the parties were sponsoring.  The opposition to the king is insistent on an elected Constituent Assembly meeting to end the deadlock.  It is agreed that there should be one representative from each political party to organise it.

  India ’s options at this point were:  1) Whether to continue maintaining the open border between India and Nepal .  If we have a regulated border, there will be problems in securing it.  But the spread of insurgency from Nepal to Bihar and elsewhere in India is a present danger.  2) Whether the 1950 treaty should continue without amendment or whether we should regulate Indians visiting Nepal .  3) Whether we should impose an arms blockade.

 The Nepali Maoists realise that without Indian support Nepal can hardly develop in a satisfactory way.  India could be more open in expressing support for Nepal .

 Though China seemed to support the status quo in Nepal , it cannot long continue to do so in the face of rising opposition to the King’s autocracy.  India has influence in Nepal and should use the popular feelings there to promote trade and other contacts.  India should be more forthcoming in regard to support for the emerging forces in Nepal .

Implications for India

Maj. Gen Dipankar Banerjee

 He sketched out the macro aspects and the implications for India . 

1)  The Nepalese will decide their own form of government.  India can offer help and retain its influence, but it will be limited.  China ’s influence has been growing since 1988.  Its arms supplies strengthened the RNA.  The Lhasa-Nepal road route has speeded up China ’s access to Nepal .  China has increased its control and presence along its southwest border areas.  Tourism between the two countries has grown, along with a liberalisation of visas. 

2)  The King of Nepal, with a loyal palace group round him, became a hands-on ruler, concentrating power in his hands.  He had an antipathy to party politicians.  He defied and antagonised India in 2004-05.  But he has been losing popular support.  The monarchy may revert to the role of a unifying force in the multi-ethnic society of Nepal , and perhaps retain a religious role besides.

3)  The Army (RNA), whose chief was an orphan brought up in the palace, is a loyalist dependent on the King’s support.  He had a stint in the Defence College in Pakistan too.  The RNA has relished its chance for taking part in the UN peacekeeping operations over two decades, finding it highly lucrative (Rs. 8 billions of transferred savings).  It has improved the standard of living and welfare of officers and soldiers.

4)  The King could play the China card, but he is now on shaky ground.  It is doubtful if he can survive in kingship.  Monarchical succession is not clear-cut.

5)  The political parties are not a promising basis for parliamentary democracy, since they are discredited and have no prominent younger leaders to take over.  They are against the Maoists, but disunited.  In a democratic framework the Maoists will get in and this could shift the armed struggle to a political struggle.  Nepal ’s Maoists are not like the Bhadralok communists of West Bengal .  (It was Jyoti Basu who eliminated the Naxalite insurgents from West Bengal .  Prachanda, or Pushpa Kamal Dahal, as he was earlier called, is the leading Maoist of Nepal.  His plan was to downgrade the political parties.  He may revive it, if the present Maoist agreement with the SPA for a united front against the King breaks down. 

6)  The policy options for India will be determined by current developments. (i) The strength of the Mao-vadis is in the countryside.  Their coercive tactics are resented.  They lack popular support for a revolutionary solution.  (ii) They have no external support.  China gave up the policy of supporting Marxist movements abroad after Mao’s death.  So the Maoists have no significant Chinese backing.  (iii) The Mao-vadis realise that they cannot win by force of arms.  So they have joined the united front with the SPA against the autocratic monarchical rule with a 12-point programme (November 2005).  (iv) There is a linkage of the Maoists with the radical Left in India .  Our Home Ministry’s Annual Report has acknowledged that in 2001, 76 districts in nine states of India were affected by Naxalite insurgency. Now there are 175 districts thus affected, and parts of India are declared “liberation zones” by the insurgents.  Some politicians are in league with them. 

7)  The European Union is pressing for Human Rights to be observed in Nepal .  The UN HR observer has brought out some shameful instance of violations.  The UK , the US and India had forged a common approach of not supporting the royal autocracy.  We stopped military assistance to the RNA after the King’s coup. 

8)  The US does not like India ’s recent policy of tacit support for the united front of the SPA and the Maoists.  It wants a stronger drive by the King and the RNA to defeat the Maoists. 

9)  India ’s aims, if intervention is ruled out:  a) support a democratic, stable, representative government that emerges, with sound economic policies contributing to regional prosperity.  b) Nepal should not be used for hostile acts against India .  c) Nepal’s hydel potential should be shared cooperatively and equitably.  Private enterprise is more likely to achieve results here than state level treaties.  Indo-Bhutan cooperation could be an example, when Bhutan ’s GDP goes up as a consequence.

10)     In early April, India ’s options were poised between support for the royalty and backing for the democratic movement.  India ’s attitude to the growing influence of the Nepal Mao-vadis was also in consideration.  The role of other powers and the UN in Nepal ’s evolution was another important strategic factor. 

11)      India will always have a defence role in Nepal .  It is a touchy relationship.  The extent of military assistance to the Nepal army in future and the training facilities to be provided to it must engage our policy makers.  The army there is in desperate straits, with its stocks of ammunition running low. 

  The speaker concluded that India lacked a clear and coherent policy for Nepal .

Strategic Analysis and Options

  Nepal is important to India because of its location and because insurgency there affects insurgencies in India .  The people’s movement is growing in strength, recalling its forerunner in 1990, when political parties emerged from suppression successfully.  The King has not learnt the lesson yet.  There are three scenarios: 1) The King has his way.  2) The King is forced to reverse the royal coup and re-introduce a multi-party democracy.  3) The King is deposed.

India ’s role:  1) India must heed the invariant security factor in carrying out its Nepal policy.  From British colonial times, it was believed by policy makers that anarchy in Nepal would spill over into India .  This has political, economic and security ramifications. There are 10-12 million Nepalese in India (his estimate), among whom there could be those who escaped from the Maoist hold or the RNA.  2) India should avoid a situation where the US or the UK takes over the lead in Nepal .

 The Indian National Congress and the BJP have different approaches to the role of the King.  The latter sees him as the avatar of Vishnu and Nepal as the sole Hindu state in the world.  If India remains passive, the vacuum will be occupied by the West, China , Russia and even Pakistan .  The last three powers have refrained from siding with the democratic movement, holding that they should not take sides in Nepal ’s internal matters (as regards the role of the monarchy). Since India is engaging China over common concerns, we can perhaps discount Chinese interference in the agitation for democracy.  Prachanda’s interview with The Hindu ( S. Varadarajan , February 8, 2006 ) signalled a nuanced change in Maoist policy.

The US wants action in Nepal to curb if not defeat the Maoist movement, being convinced that the Maoists are terrorists and communists who intend to take over the state.  On the one hand the US appears to support India ’s moderating role in Nepal , but on the other hand it has backed the King-RNA offensive against the Maoists. 

At the recent release of the speaker’s new book on Nepal in New Delhi , Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran had expressed India ’s wish that the royalty would play a benign role in the Nepal crisis.  The King could possibly follow the model of the Thai monarchy.  The Maoists will however press for the restructuring of the state along radical lines, not wanting even a constitutional monarchy to remain in the polity. 

In this situation, it is time for India to wrest some initiative, instead of allowing the US to bolster its role in South Asia .  We have to go beyond the “twin pillars” policy and even engage the Maoists.  The King cannot be trusted to pilot the requisite changes in this context.  India ’s political parties have to reach a consensus on our policy.  We should persuade the King to hold elections, not just to the parliament, but also to the Constituent Assembly.  But the King fears this bogey.

Discussion

There were several questions from the floor which the speakers answered with due deliberation.  One question was about Indo-Nepal military cooperation and our influence with the RNA.  Major Gen. Mehta stated that India had given about Rs. 500 crores worth of arms to Nepal .  But some RNA generals look with suspicion on India .  Nepal has some tribes which are pro-Indian, but other ethnic groups and individuals who want to procure arms from elsewhere, (sometimes with kickbacks in mind).  They are wont to complain against the effectiveness of India weapons.  At the moment, the RNA has no critical shortages.  It has doubled its strength in five years. Major Gen. Banerjee said that other departments of the Government of India concerned with Nepal , apart from the MEA, do contribute their perceptions and wishes.  The bond between the two armies can be built upon. 

As regards external influences on Nepalese developments, Major Gen. Mehta was for India keeping a wary eye on Chinese moves, apart from the US angle, which may or may not be duplicitous.  The US ostensibly wants India to lead, but India jibs at calling the Maoists terrorists, since they have indicated a willingness to come into the mainstream as a party.  Major Gen. Banerjee agreed that there is a divergence of perception between India and the US . 

To a question if the Nepal Maoists coming into the political mainstream would persuade the Indian Naxalites to do so, it was said that the Nepal Maoists have made this tactical change, but may later press for their own blueprint of governance.  The transition in Nepal may not be peaceful.  Instability is on the cards. 

One comment was that India had ignored its neighbours, Nepal , Bangladesh and Sri Lanka .  We tend to react to events.  The government in New Delhi now runs without a Foreign Minister. 

To a question on the ISI presence in Nepal , Major Gen. Mehta conceded that it had grown since 1990.  It has been active in recruiting Muslims in the Terai and setting up madrassas, so that, though formally banned in Nepal , it has agents to carry out some missions.  It was stated that there are 2.5 to 4 million Muslims in this region bordering India .  Bangladeshis also settle there. 

Major Gen. Banerjee said that the Nepal King had been miffed when the Indian prime minister failed to visit Nepal .  It was only after the King and the Prime Minister met in Jakarta during an Asean summit that a thaw was achieved.  There was a question about the extent of anti-Indian sentiment in neighbouring countries.  Dr. S. Pattanaik replied that in her estimation this feeling was more conspicuous among Nepalese than in Pakistan and Bangladesh .  Nepal being a small, landlocked country, (‘India-locked’, say some), is sensitive about its sovereignty and resents the big brother attitude which some Indians tactlessly display.  Nepal is extremely dependent on India and values its cultural and religious bonds with us.  Therefore it needs the traditional open border between the two countries. Major General Mehta observed that the anti-Indian feeling was mainly in Kathmandu , not in the countryside.  It is a love-hate relationship.  There was also some discussion on the China factor and Nepal ’s importance for India as a buffer state. 

Winding up the seminar, Shri A. P. Venkateswaran said:  India had been rather soft in its policy to Nepal , unlike China in its relations with its small neighbours, when security interests are at stake.  Secondly, Nepal should not be treated specially as a Hindu state, since there were differences to be taken into account.  Thirdly, the open border between India and Nepal does not work to our advantage.  Nepal is not deterred from obtaining arms from China .  Fourthly, the Maoists do pose a danger for India . 

  We should be guided by reciprocity in dealing with other countries.  If they are hostile to our interests, we should not remain inactive or passive.  But a clear-cut policy on Nepal will need India to be firm where firmness is required to secure our basic interests. 

 

Conclusion 

  Though this seminar was well timed to present an informed and analytical briefing on Nepal’s political impasse between the King, backed by the army, and his unarmed subjects, it was only later (after April 8) that events gathered momentum to a crisis point in the confrontation.  Here it was that the coalition forged (with the help of the Indian CPI-M) uniting the anti-monarchical popular forces finally decided the issue.  After days of wanton violence by the monarchical regime against the agitating throngs from all over Nepal , when their unyielding spirit was magnificently displayed for all the world to witness, the popular demand for the ending of the King’s autocratic rule and the restoration of the parliament had to be conceded.  At the last moment, India sent Dr Karan Singh as a special envoy to persuade the King to restore parliament ( April 20, 2006 ).  But the message was blurred, with India appearing to be still clinging on to the preservation of the monarchy in the old form, while also accommodating the people’s demand for sovereignty.  The impression of ambivalence was fortunately corrected almost immediately, for India came out in support of the people’s will prevailing over the King’s.  Once the new government by a coalition of political parties was recognised, with the veteran Girija Prasad Koirala as interim prime minister, Nepal and the world heaved a sigh of relief.  It was a near thing that the country was saved from chaos and endless bloodshed.  Indians could hail the people’s victory in Nepal with sincere fellow feeling. 

  But obviously there are serious challenges ahead, which will sorely test the Nepalese people and institutions.  Progress is possible towards an election to a new Constituent Assembly.  Parties are taking up positions on behalf of the people. The task of including all the ethnic and sectarian groups in the electorate is not easy to accomplish in a short time. As of early June, it seems likely that the elected government will want to reduce the kingship to a cipher, if not abolish it under a new constitution, since the people are clearly unwilling to experience the possible reversion to a repressive autocracy aided by the army and the security forces. 

So far, Prachanda and his cohorts have shown maturity in letting the political process rather than armed insurgency determine the emerging form of government.  But the Nepal Communists may lose their unity in the aftermath of the revolution, with an extremist faction holding out for exclusive power, not to be shared with the democratic parties.  After all, the present united front is but a tactical convenience forged against the King.  The parties may also fall out over the spoils of power.  So too may politicians of the same party.  It is not good that the Maoists have resisted the temptation to join the ruling coalition.  It indicates that they may harbour a more radical agenda which may have been shelved for the present.  The King himself may be waiting to pounce on such disarray to re-assert his authority with a constitutional fig leaf, on the pretext of saving the country from descent into anarchy.  But the Nepalese politicians are sufficiently wise to such tactics and will safeguard their hard-won wresting of power from the royal usurper.  India has a vital stake in ensuring that Nepal is not destabilised, but that it should build on the people’s April victory.

  In Nepal ’s formidable challenges on the economic and social fronts, India can and should contribute to the gradual rebuilding of the country’s institutions.  India can help in almost all sectors of Nepal ’s development, without fanfare or condescension, in a spirit of co-operation rather than of a donor of aid.  The defence link will be crucial for both countries.  India must prevent other powers from gaining a predominant influence in Nepal .  China and India can have an understanding on Nepal , so that neither has to suspect a hegemonic intent on the part of the other.  Similarly, our diplomacy must be honed to keep vigil on the possible interference of countries like Pakistan , the US , the UK and Russia in Nepal to our detriment.  This is not to claim exclusive influence in Nepal , but to propose a keen awareness of India ’s basic security interests. 

 While the Nepal Maoists may come into the political mainstream, realising that armed struggle will not gain them political power, this favourable scenario does not necessarily entail the Indian Naxalites following suit.  India has to tackle its varied Naxalite insurgencies with a firm but nuanced approach to the local realities and a sensitivity to the legitimate grievances of the people which may have driven the rebels to battle the state and sabotage its functioning.

India may have to renegotiate the open border with Nepal .  No unilateral decision should be taken in this regard.  As a first step, some sections of the border may be patrolled to prevent illegal and hostile cross-border activities.  The Indo-Nepal treaty also needs to be revised to reflect the historical changes.

All told, India has a favourable opportunity to re-shape its policy towards Nepal in a context that is now far less dangerous than it seemed as recently as in March-April, 2006.  We should not lose this chance to regain the trust and confidence of the Nepalese people, with whom we share cultural and social bonds unique to both our countries. 

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