Five-year-long Hybrid War on Nepal by India failed to return the increasingly independent landlocked country to its former status as an Indian puppet state has instead created a geopolitical nightmare for New Delhi with obvious David vs. Goliath optics that are poised to ruin the aspiring Great Power’s reputation for years to come.
The Kalapani Crisis
India is presently in the midst of a serious international crisis that’s once again entirely of its own making after Nepal released a map last week claiming a small sliver of disputed territory with New Delhi, the Kalapani region, as its own. Kathmandu wasn’t provoking its larger neighbor, though; to the contrary, it was simply responding to New Delhi’s release last November of its own map which claimed the same piece of land for itself. India also opened up a road through this region earlier in the month for what it claimed was the purpose of facilitating pilgrimages to China’s Tibet Autonomous Region but which is also suspected of enabling its military to more easily reach the frontier in the event of a crisis with its nominal BRICS and SCO “partner”. This second-mentioned motivation is particularly ominous when considering that “India Is Intensifying Its American-Backed Hybrid War On China” as evidenced by recent border clashes with the People’s Republic. It’s with Nepal, however, where India’s Hybrid War has already backfired and runs the risk of inflicting irreparable damage to Indian interests.
India’s 2015-2016 Unofficial Blockade Of Nepal
India has been waging a five-year-long Hybrid War on Nepal in a desperate attempt to return the increasingly independent landlocked country to its former status as an Indian puppet state. The communist government in Kathamandu promulgated a federal constitution in late 2015 in accordance with the stipulations agreed to for resolving its long-running civil war. New Delhi was furious that the new law of the land didn’t grant the Indian-allied Madhesi people of the southern Terai plains their own separate federal unit as it had originally hoped, thus foiling India’s plan to manipulate such a territorial entity in order to divide and rule the former Hindu monarchy. In response, India unofficially imposed a crippling blockade on Nepal in tacit coordination with its Madhesi allies that could have been disastrous had China not rushed to its neighbor’s aid with much-needed energy, food, and other supplies during that time. A second round of civil war was narrowly averted, but the incident poisoned bilateral relations with India from that point on. Since then, the Indians have failed to take responsibility for their foreign policy failings, instead attributing them to a so-called “Chinese plot”.
India’s 2019-2020 Cartographic Claims Against Nepal
Being the regional bully that it’s been since independence, India opted to intensify its Hybrid War on Nepal instead of de-escalating it like any responsible country would do upon realizing the counterproductive failure of their initial plans, ergo the reason why it released its controversial map late last year claiming the disputed Kalapani region as its own. This sliver of territory has been the bone of contention between the two countries since India’s independence. According to the 1815 Treaty of Sugauli that ended the Anglo-Nepalese War, the latter’s borders were pushed back to the Kalapani River. Kathmandu claims that this boundary line originates near the Limpiyadhura Pass whereas New Delhi insists that it starts with the Pankhagad River much further to the east, which immensely reduces the disputed area. India’s hyper-nationalist government, drunk off the self-proclaimed “glory” of its de-facto annexation of the UNSC-recognized disputed territory of Kashmir last August, felt that nibbling away at Nepal’s claims was the next “logical” step in its quest to carve out a so-called “Hindu Rashtra” (fundamentalist Hindu Empire) in South Asia and return its neighbor to its formerly submissive status.
India’s Northern Front Of Expansionism
That was among one of Prime Minister Modi’s many geostrategic miscalculations since entering office in 2014 since it provoked the previously mentioned reaction from Nepal of releasing its own map which laid maximum claim to the disputed region, thereby triggering a serious political crisis. In the midst of its unprecedented internal transformation driven by its ongoing state-on-citizen Hybrid War against non-Hindu minorities, largely influenced by the insecurity that it feels after its post-independence status was the first time in history that such a large swatch of the demographically diverse territory was controlled by a majority-Hindu government, India’s hyper-nationalist leaders believe that backtracking on these unnecessary claims could potentially unravel the rest of their state. As for Nepal, its recent “balancing” act with China (which was greatly accelerated in the aftermath of India’s de-facto blockade of 2015-2016) emboldened it to push back against India’s hegemonic ambitions. The resultant situation is therefore extremely tense, especially since India is merging its Hybrid Wars on China and Nepal into a united northern front of expansionism after its Army Chief hinted that Beijing was behind Kathmandu’s claims.
Regardless of how this crisis is resolved (such as by renegotiating the unequal 1950 “Friendship Treaty“, among other possible solutions), India has irreversibly lost the Nepalese “hearts and minds” that it invested so heavily in for decades. Furthermore, the obvious David vs. Goliath optics are poised to ruin this aspiring Great Power’s reputation for years to come since they expose India as the regional bully that it’s always been but which it worked so hard to distract the world from realizing. India’s track record of aggression against all of its neighbors is indisputable but was rarely recognized for what it is due to the country’s active diplomacy, which has recently appealed to its promising market growth in a mostly successful attempt to get influential countries to self-censor their criticism of these policies. That might very well change in the coming future since Nepal can count on China’s much more impressive soft power network and more powerful diplomatic skills to promote its cause in the international arena. The geopolitical nightmare that Modi single-handedly created is extremely detrimental to his country’s long-term interests, but it could potentially serve as yet another sign of fealty to his American patrons by proving his intentions to “contain” China if Washington endorses New Delhi’s nascent narrative blaming it for this crisis.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this story are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Insider Paper.