in India, politics, wotd

Word of the day: bugbear

A bugbear, according to Wikipedia is a legendary creature (not epic, just the stuff of stories) similar to a bogeyman, mostly used to frighten children into obedience. It was used in this article today to describe how India perceives China’s influence (interference?) in regional affairs in South East Asia –

And then there is China, India’s regional bugbear.

The article is titled ‘Why India is concerned about Nepal’s constitution’ and talks about how India is worried that Nepal’s new constitution is not comprehensive enough. This has caused concern among residents of the southern plains of Nepal, known as the Terai. The communities living in Terai, including the Madeshis and the Tharu ethnic minorities, which comprise about 40% of Nepal’s population do not agree with the seven federal provinces delineated in the constitution and this has caused violence in those regions. India is rightfully concerned that this violence will spill over to Bihar, which is something that has happened in the past, during Nepal’s long and bloody battle with Maoism.

I spent some time this year reading the book ‘The Bullet and the Ballot Box’ by Aditya Adhikari, which talks about Nepal’s struggle with the Maoist revolution and how everything in Nepali politics has one looming external factor which plays a heavy role in deciding things – India. No analysis of Nepal’s history is complete without looking at India’s interference in their local politics. The following are some highlights which I made while reading the book. They may seem out of context, but I hope to write these out along with explanations in a later post one day, so please skim through them for now. These are excerpts from the book –

At the heart of the matter was the question of how Nepali communists should view the monarchy, the parliamentary parties and the Indian state.

The monarchy, the parliamentary parties and the Indian government were equally their enemy.

A number of Bhattarai’s colleagues from university had gone on to careers in Indian politics, civil service and academia, and so he was tasked with contacting them. In early 2002, Bhattarai managed to contact the Indian Prime Minister’s Office through his old acquaintance, S. D. Muni, a scholar of Nepali politics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University who had briefly been ambassador to Laos.

Prachanda raised the spectre of an Indian invasion to provide ideological justification for a royalist–Maoist alliance among the party’s rank and file […]

Soon after, India announced a freeze on military aid to Nepal, as did the United Kingdom and the United States.

But India, unplacated, maintained its arms embargo. Gyanendra then resorted to a strategy his father had used in the past: he sought to cultivate China as a counterweight against India. India, ever wary of Chinese influence in Nepal, only grew more hostile towards the Nepali government.

Never before had the Maoists been able to establish contacts at such high levels of the Indian establishment. Antagonized by Gyanendra’s extreme measures and his efforts to cultivate China, the Indian political class, which had hitherto seen the Maoists only as a terrorist group, was growing less reluctant to recognize them as a political force.

Although India was not a signatory to the twelve-point agreement, it did influence its content. Various Nepali leaders had long been requesting mediation from international bodies like the UN to resolve the conflict. India did not want any third-party involvement […]

Hindu groups in both Nepal and India were outraged by the godless regime’s tampering with sacred tradition.

Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood and Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee had assured the president of their support for revoking the government’s decision.

The Indian state was familiar with such games. They had, after all, been played before, often successfully, in dealing with hostile groups in Kashmir and Northeast India.

The above notes may seem as random lines picked up from the book, but the underlying pattern is clear – While India may always be afraid of China and their growing strength in every country around India, for smaller countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka, the only bugbear to be scared of is India, their giant next door neighbor.