KATHMANDU: Like Nepal, Bhutan too is a landlocked country squeezed between two giant neighbours —China and India. However, unlike Nepal, Bhutan has not had any issue of doing the balancing act between the two emerging economies.
Bhutan has also not suffered like Nepal for becoming too close or distant with any of the two neighbours that are now competing to become the world’s largest economy and power centres in global politics. This is largely because Bhutan does not share formal diplomatic relations with China, and its foreign relations are basically with or only through India. As a result, India has no issues as far as its bilateral relations with the tiny kingdom of Bhutan are concerned.
India too has reciprocated to this ‘obedient act’ of its neighbour with generous support in her development endeavours. The emphasis given to India’s relations with Bhutan was also evident in the fact that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his maiden foreign visit under the much-touted ‘neighbours first’ policy with a visit to Bhutan. That also showed how ‘happy’ India was with its tiny neighbour.
Like with Nepal, India also shares a Peace and Friendship Treaty with Bhutan that allows among other things unrestricted access to the Bhutanese citizens to visit or work in India. As everything is fair and square (from India’s perspective) as far as its relations with Bhutan is concerned, India has not had to resort to imposing an economic blockade like it did twice (so far) on Nepal to enforce the ‘peace and friendship-ness’ of the treaty.
So, as far as Bhutan-India relations are concerned, India is happy with Bhutan and Bhutan too is happy with India. As a result, for India, Bhutan is a ‘happy’ country. And this has nothing to do with what the Bhutanese government has been propagating, what it calls, the Gross National Happiness to measure the level of happiness among its people.
Hence, in this light, a senior leader from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of India suggesting Nepal to become a ‘happy’ country like Bhutan sheds light on the inherent wish of the Indian establishment to see Nepal ultimately becoming an obedient neighbour like Bhutan. Ironically, Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, also a former Chief Minister of the Uttarakhand State of India, made the statement as he arrived in the Nepali capital leading the Eminent Persons’ Group of India to review together with the Nepali EPG past treaties and agreements including the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty.
The first-ever meeting of EPG ended in Kathmandu on Tuesday with a preliminary agreement to review all existing treaties and agreement. The EPG will carry out further study on the issues discussed in the first meeting and meet again in three months in New Delhi. With a two-year term, the EPG has ample time to study, discuss and review every aspect of Nepal-India relations, before submitting a report to their respective governments along with recommendations to improve the bilateral relations.
Nepal however has been raising the issue of reviewing the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty since a very long time. Nepal has been arguing that the Treaty has lost its relevance and that it has been acting as an impediment to Nepal’s development. Only time will tell, however, if this latest initiative through the EPG would bear any significant fruit, so much so for Nepal, which has been at the receiving end of almost all the bilateral agreements that it has signed with India.
And, for Nepal to gain something or to have at least a fair share in the bilateral agreements with its southern neighbour will mean not being a ‘happy’ nation like Bhutan to the latter’s liking but a country that would be content for being able to make its own choices, decisions and stand up to any acts of aggression, injustice or hegemony. RSS