Nepal-India Border Disputes- Role of Media In Exacerbating Tensions

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Amid COVID-19, there has been a surging tense border dispute between Nepal and India. Nepal and India share very close ties. But the recent concern of border dispute between the two countries has sparked new tensions among both neighboring countries. 

Media plays a key role in today’s era where the entire world depends on media landscapes and technologies to access accurate information thus forming individual perceptions. The potential of the media can take two different forms. They either can improve or deteriorate the prevailing situation. Similarly, in the context of a border dispute between Nepal and India, the media has immensely politicized the issue and escalating tensions. The tremendous role that Indian media played has politicized the entire issue fuelling strains leaving no stone unturned in cossetting the bilateral relations between two countries by portraying make-believe theories and possibilities publically on behalf of Indian Government. 

Particularly, Indian media has provoked its neighbor hugely and proliferation of anti-Nepal and vice versa sentiments among people of both countries. The majority of the population in both countries have irrefutably generated hatred against each other. We can even cite recent examples where Indian Media underestimated and deemed Nepal inviting key dignitaries to their program is totally against the ethics of virtuous journalism. Manisha Koirala, Bollywood actor who served Bollywood for a few decades, has faced a backlash from Indian Media for voicing her opinion. The way Indian Media were suppressing and disrespecting the Nepal dignitaries’ shows how ill cultured Indian Media are. And the way Indian Media has been portraying Nepal and Nepalese are truly hurting the sentiments of Nepalese people. 

In the case of bilateral relations of India with its neighboring countries, be it with China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or Bhutan, and now with Nepal, Indian mainstream media, especially television seem so biased and poorly informed. They are only exaggerating, sensationalizing, and provoking their public against their neighbor. Countries like China and Pakistan are more habitual to this. Indian media only manipulate things on their interests. Their news anchors only give their statements instead of looking for background information and facts. This will only damage the bilateral relations between countries. 

The South Asian people are fed up of listening/watching Indian hegemonic attitude now. Not only Indian media, but the problem is of Indian establishment who never treat other countries in the region as a sovereign nation. It would be good if they would present unbiased information and convey the issue in a very rational way.

Nepali media on contrary were found very shy and silent. Various Nepali media personnel has portrayed a different picture of border dispute by citing historical shreds of evidence rather than making assumptions and conspiracy theories. In 2015 two countries (India and China) had agreed to open up trading posts in Lipulek where Nepal was not consulted by both the countries. Therefore, Instead of dragging Nepal-China relations, Indian Media should have thoroughly researched on Indo Chinese agreement on trade and not to make yourself as a superior power in the Asia Pacific. Nepalese already had enough of Indian media on the aftermath of earthquakes in 2015 and on the time of Indian blockade. Indian media were so infamous in these times. But this time the issue is more serious than before. Sovereignty among countries is a different thing where media can’t give their opinion or statements. 

There is a big question looming now, why are Indian TV channels freely available in Nepal? Is it really necessary? Isn’t it high time to change this?

Our leaders might have been corrupt, insensitive while delivering their speech. We might have an unstable political situation, nepotism, impunity. But that doesn’t mean any media can misuse or transmit such content for their propaganda purpose or TRP to incite hatred and spread rumors. Therefore, this is a humble request to Indian media through this article to treat your neighbor respectfully as a friend, not as a superior power. Instead of manipulating the issue please be responsible and productive. Nepal still and always shares special relations with India, despite many differences. In principle, the media should respect and promote mutual understanding among people from two different countries. This is a subject of respect, but not hate feelings. 

The border issues should have been resolved by both Governments diplomatically with intense political dialogues, discourse, and negotiations not on one party dominating the agenda. Both governments should present historical shreds of evidence inviting some scholars and discuss on the facts rather than accusing each other. The historical evidence presented should be respected and accepted by both nations. Both Nepal and the Indian Government through their public addressing should have delivered the issues to their citizens in a responsible way. Nepal Government is approaching the Indian Government to hold a dialogue in this issue but the Indian Government has been unresponsive. The unilateral move by the Indian Government has made us comprehend time and again deliberating the intention of the Indian Government towards Nepal.

As a final point, Nepal should also start English News Channel and expand its reach to different parts of South Asia to make itself heard. Nepali policy analysts and experts should also expand its access to Indian Media and debate through their platform in both Hindi (a national language with higher reach) and English language to make itself heard and push its stand. 

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