Nepal after the abolition of monarchy is a secular, democratic republic federal in structure but conversion to Christianity remains a sensitive issue
KP Oli, the prime minister of Nepal has a penchant to land himself in controversies. This time it is because of his ‘association’ with the United Church of South Korea known for its proselytising zeal. That once Buddhist country has in recent years fast changed its religious complexion.
Nepal after the abolition of monarchy is a secular, democratic republic federal in structure but conversions remains a sensitive issue. Not only the opposition parties in Nepal but his own allies have criticised Oli’s latest faux pas. But there is no cause for India to gloat over. On the contrary, there should be a concern.
Recently, we have been informed that very soon India’s bilateral trade with South Korea is going to touch the figure of $ 50 billion. South Korean cars, televisions, cameras and computers have pushed out the once-dominant Japanese automobiles and electronic and optical products from the price sensitive market. The quality of South Korean products compares with the best. The ground is ripe for establishing production facilities-like Suzuki company-in India for export to neighbouring countries.
Conversions are a sensitive issue in India also. In the recent times, provocative and politically partisan statements by high functionaries of the church have not helped.
Nor can India easily overlook that many NGOs active in the field of Human Rights and Human Development are closely, if invisibly, linked with Christian Missionary organisations. Not very long ago a young American sadly lost his life with Bible in his hand trying to intrude in Sentinel Island flouting the laws of the land. After the fall of communism in its citadels not many talk of ‘Liberation Theology’ but it can’t be easily forgotten how secessionist alienation proliferated in the North Eastern States of India with activities of some American missionaries.
Our Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to follow any religion according to our faith and belief. It is imperative that even microscopic religious minorities don’t feel threatened or persecuted. At the same time, we can’t shut our eyes to evangelical activism in the proximate neighbourhood.
Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse's bid to come back to power through a ‘constitutional coup’ has been foiled but the deep divides in society and polity continue to tear at the heart of the country known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Like Nepal, Sri Lanka too is a sovereign nation state that for Indians is hard to treat as a foreign country.
As Lal Bahadur Shastri had once famous commented that the people who reside there are our flesh and blood. Shared bonds of religion and culture, not to forget the legacy of British Colonial rule, create an illusion of coinciding national interests in perpetuity.
Ever since Independence India and Sri Lanka have frequently followed divergent paths of economic development and conflicting strategic visions. The ethnic civil war that raged for decades has ravaged bilateral relations. Dravidian identity politics in Tamil Nadu continues to aggravate the already complex diplomatic challenges. Here too, we have to tread with extreme care.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)