“Such materials are not only misleading and misinforming but also impair the sense of minimum public decency,” Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in the note. The ill-intentioned “smearing campaign unleashed by a section of Indian media has deeply hurt the feelings of Nepali people and persona of Nepali leadership,” read the note.
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Tensions between India and Nepal have flared since May 8 when India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a 80-km-long road connecting the Lipulekh Pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand. The road passes through a region claimed by Nepal.
Kathmandu angrily reacted to the inauguration of the road saying that it passed through Nepalese territory. Later, Nepal updated the country’s political map through a Constitutional amendment, incorporating three strategically important areas, currently under Indian control.
Indian media, known for spreading poisonous propaganda across South Asia, went in overdrive to go after the government of Nepalese Prime Minister Oli, hurling all kinds of accusations and making false claims
Indian Zee News TV channel in a 16-minute show with a headline offensive towards Nepalese Prime Minster Oli and Ambassador Hou, tried to give an impression to the Indian audience that PM Oli is working at the behest of China and Hou is doing her best to meddle into Nepal’s internal affairs. They even accused the Chinese ambassador of hatching conspiracies to harm Nepal-India relations.
The Times of India published a disrespectful picture of Prime Minister Oli in its editorial. Indo Asian News Service, India Today, WION, Times Now and Republic TV and other Indian media outlets also ran baseless reports, claimed ‘My Republica’, a Nepali media outlet.
Former Deputy PM and ruling party spokesman Narayan Kazi Shrestha told journalists in Kathmandu that Indian news channels were transmitting derogatory and defamatory propaganda against Nepal that led the government to take the measure.
Minister for Finance, Information and Communication Yuvraj Khatiwada condemned some news reports by the Indian media that showed Nepal in a bad light. “Nepal government condemns such acts,” Khatiwada said at a press briefing on July 9. “The government will seek political and legal ways against such an objectionable act,” he added. He said that the Indian media “must stop the baseless propaganda” against Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli and his government”.
Nepal’s cable and satellite television providers have stopped airing Indian news channels, with one operator saying on July 10 that the move was in response to public complaints against “objectionable” content broadcast about PM KP Sharma Oli.
“We have stopped the distribution of all Indian news channels except Doordarshan,” Dinesh Subedi, the chairperson of foreign channel distributor Multi-System Operator, told reporters in Katmandu. “We have halted distribution of India’s private news channels as they have aired news reports hurting Nepal’s national sentiment.”
“We felt a moral responsibility to block the channels after they aired objectionable content about our country,” Max Digital TV vice chairman Dhurba Sharma told AFP news agency.
We request all media, including those of our neighboring country, to not broadcast news that damages our country’s image,” he told a press briefing.
‘The Kathmandu Post’ in a strongly-worded editorial on July 10 accused Indian news channels of coming up with a “new — and invariably false — propaganda against Oli”.
“Sitting in their [New] Delhi or Mumbai studios, they do not hesitate to announce the date and time of Oli’s resignation, some of them even asking him to step down. Oli, it seems, is the new enemy they must fight each day to garner higher television rating points for themselves,” the editorial said.
Indian TV channels have also been accused of pushing Islamophobic and anti-Muslim views in Nepal, a country with 4 percent Muslims, using the coronavirus pandemic to cause unrest and backlash against the minority Muslim community. All these contributed to the closure of Indian TV channels in Nepal.
Mentionable, for years there prevailed popular sentiment and demand in Nepal to ban Indian Hindi movies, which arouse such sensations that are contrary to the cultural and social values of Nepal. Not surprisingly the government decision to ban Indian TV channels got wide support inside Nepal.
Neither the Nepalese nor the international communities are surprised over Indian TVs’ defamatory propaganda against the sitting government of Nepal. They believe Modi government will use all the available options to defame, even unseat the sitting KP Sharma government. Analysts in India and Nepal believe Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is irritated with Nepal for several reasons:
1. Nepal drifted away from India and sided with its arch rival China;
2. amended Nepali map inserting Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura claiming them as Nepali territories, which are now under Indian occupation;
3. Imposed tax on Indian products which were earlier largely imported tax free or with very low taxes;
4. Restriction imposed on Indian nationals and vehicles entering Nepal;
5. Deterred Indian efforts to construct a dam along a bordering river, etc.
India considers all these steps as “unpardonable offenses” on the part of Nepal. To punish Kathmandu, India is desperate to topple the KP Sharma government to bring Nepal back to Indian shackles. Anti-Nepal propaganda on Indian channels is directed at people of Nepal to agitate them to rise against their government.
A Nepali journalist residing in the U.S. informed that India spends millions of dollars to buy the politicians irrespective of their party affiliation that breaches the unity of the ruling communist party and its allies. “The current power struggle between sitting PM Oil and Pushpakamal Dhahal, the Co-chairman of Nepal Communist Party, is the manifestation of India’s clandestine notoriety,” he added.
China, which has emerged as a powerful player in Nepal, has been making efforts to end the Oli-Dhahal feud. The Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Howe Yanki has held rounds of talks with both the Oli government and Pushpakamal Dhahal to break the stalemate. Prime Minister Ali has been facing demands for resignation from the opposition.
An Indian Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika (July 10, 2020) condemning the Chinese envoy said, Chinese Ambassador, abandoning diplomatic norms opted to come openly to salvage Oli. “Oli is aware of the game and warned India that its efforts to unseat him would sure to fail.”
The daily opined that Oli’s decision to take a more nationalist stand against India and to change the country’s map were all aimed at strengthening his position. Independent observers say Indian media propaganda against Nepal and its prompt action of stopping transmission of Indian channels drives Kathmandu further away from New Delhi and facilitates China to enhance its influence in Nepal.
They believe due to heavy Chinese involvement in Nepal, it will be quite difficult for India to change the course in its favor. Immediate mass revolt or army coup, which could change the course, seems to be a distant dream for India.
Mohammad Zainal Abedin is a New York-based Bangladeshi-American journalist & researcher.
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