Making the Nepal policy meaningful
India has effectively stopped military aid to Nepal. So have the United States and Britain. At least part of King Gyanendra’s calculations did not come to fruition.
India’s gambit is to starve the King of political and military oxygen until he becomes more amenable to first restoring civil liberties and eventually, democracy itself. But if Pakistan and China step in to fill the gap, this gambit can go awfully wrong. For its policy to succeed, India must ensure that both Pakistan and China keep a studied distance away from Nepal. India would do well to adopt a more neurotic line on this front.
It may be prudent to signal to Pakistan that its involvement in Nepal, especially concerning military support to Gyanendra is a no-no. Such a move should rightly be seen as against the spirit of bilateral ‘confidence-building measures’; it would do well not to add to the ‘trust deficit’ between the two countries.
As for China, the common perception is that it is content not to interfere in Nepal’s internal affairs as long as the Nepalese government steers clear of the Tibet issue. Just before seizing power, King Gyanendra supplicated the Chinese leadership by expelling the Dalai Lama’s office after suddenly discovering that it had been operating illegally for well over half-a-century. In the current crisis, China has publicly remained out of the fray so far. But that is China’s specialty. It would be unrealistic to expect that China has not already evolved a sophisticated, indirect response to the situation in Nepal. India’s signal to China, therefore, must be similarly indirect.
This is where India can purposefully engage the international community. It must pull together the United States, Britain, Japan and the European Union to issue a joint statement warning against any foreign support to King Gyanendra. If this turns out to be difficult to achieve, then India must be prepared to do so on its own.