Recently, a big political development happened in our neighbouring country Nepal, where the Left alliance – between the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxists Leninists (CPN-UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) – has registered a remarkable victory in the recently concluded elections. They were comfortably able to win a majority of the parliamentary seats. This election was based on Nepal’s newly adopted 2015 Constitution.
Thanks to this election result, Nepal gets a majority government after a long period, which, in my opinion, is a good sign for any democratic nation. The result has also brought a lot of happiness to Nepal’s people.
But the Left alliance coming to power cannot be seen as good news for India, given that it could bring former Nepalese Prime Minister KP Oli—who had a difficult relationship with India the last time when he was Prime Minister—back to power.
The Nepali Congress was seen as friendlier to India. The Left alliance’s new government could have a more pro-China slant which would be worrying for India. Some experts are of the opinion that if Oli is back as Nepal’s PM, then he will be more favourable towards the landmark trade and transit agreements with China. These agreements will end Nepal’s dependency on India for business and trade. It will also bring some changes in India’s monopoly on the supply of fuel.
These things are seen as favourable for Nepalis, who had felt humiliated (as they proclaimed) by India’s supply blockade. Now, it’s also important to point out that India also needs to change its policy towards Nepal.
Nepal is naturally a buffer zone for both India and China. The Leftists coming to the power may lead to increased Chinese influence in Nepal — which New Delhi would definitely not want. If there is significant Chinese influence, it may seriously hamper the relationship between India and Nepal. If Nepal stops relying on India as an essential supplier nation, then this could be a major loss for India from an economic perspective. Hence, India’s foreign policy makers should ensure that Nepal does not feel insecure in its relationship with India.
India’s interest is also to see whether the Madhesis get a fair representation in Nepal’s polity or not. If any conflict arises concerning the Madhesis in Nepal, then may create a crisis in the relationship of both the nations. That’s why, India should closely monitor all that’s happening in Nepal to prevent any such crisis between the nations.
India has provided a helping hand to Nepal in the past when difficulties arose. For example, India acted like a big brother to Nepal and provided aid during the 2015 earthquake.
But in September 2015, Indo-Nepal relations hit a hurdle when Nepal adopted its new Constitution that gave less than adequate powers to ethnic groups such as the Madhesis in the country’s Terai region. After that, there were accusations that India had blocked essential supplies to the nation. Now, after this election result, there needs to be a cooling off period for Indo-Nepal relations. But given the Left alliance’s victory, perhaps Beijing will also try and make some inroads in Nepal.
Perhaps Beijing is happy that the Left won Nepal’s election and now hopes to have friendlier relations with Kathmandu. This could mean that the ongoing Belt and Road Initiative ( BRI) project will be sped up and Kathmandu act swiftly on it.
It is also important to mention that China has openly expressed its displeasure over decisions made by Sher Bahadur Deuba’s government. Deuba’s government had terminated the $2.5 billion contract with the Chinese company Gezhouba. The company is stating that the process of its removal was invalid. The Deuba government, however, has defended its decision and claimed that the state-owned Nepal Electricity Authority will build a hydropower project, mobilising national resources.
Meanwhile, Oli’s return can be seen as a loss of face for India’s Nepal policy. As mentioned earlier, the last time Oli was Nepal’s PM, he decided to end Nepal’s dependence on Indian fuel, medicines and other commodities. Therefore he signed an agreement to purchase the basic needs from China.
To sum it up, one can say that the Communists winning Nepal’s parliamentary elections is not good in the eyes of India’s foreign policy. India has long exerted an influence on the Himalayan country’s politics and economy. The Left coalition, which will now take office, is likely to lean far more towards China than the incumbent Nepali Congress, the grand old party of Nepali politics.
One thing is clear – Nepal’s move towards China will be keeping in mind mutual interests. Hence, India-Nepal relations must continue to be at an even keel with both countries remaining sensitive to each other’s concerns, including security.
However, India must accept and be respectful of the sentiments of Nepal’s populace. India’s foreign policy makers must be careful in dealing with their neighbouring nations and must ensure that neighbouring nations do not lose their faith in India. Some have said that the communists may dissolve some treaties like the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950. Here, India must respond with sincerity and diplomacy.
Before finishing my article, I must congratulate the Nepali citizens for their kind cooperation during the whole election process and for showing the effort to set up democratic values. I also hope that the newly elected government can fulfil all the basic needs and aspirations of the people of Nepal.