Awaiting thaw: India-Nepal ties
Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is beginning his second innings with a visit to New Delhi. During his last tenure, he had visited China first, before coming to India. Prachanda being Maoist, is anti-India by ideological training. However, in the course of his evolution as a politician in a democratic set-up, Prachanda has started to show that he was more pragmatic his in approach towards Nepal’s southern neighbour.
Prachanda, this time around, is practicing a lot of diplomatic caution in dealing with Nepal’s two neighbours. Soon after his appointment as Prime Minister, he dispatched his closest political associate, Deputy Prime Minister KB Mahara, to Beijing on a goodwill visit. Simultaneously his other deputy, Bimlendra Nidhi, a Madhesi who leads the majority coalition partner, the Nepali Congress, came to India to revive a new era of friendship and clear the ground for Prachanda’s visit beginning from September 15.
As mentioned earlier this would be Prachanda’s first visit abroad after taking charge as Prime Minister. He has come to power, this time toppling the government of Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, which had the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) in majority. Prachanda heads the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) and his government has the support of Nepali Congress and Madhesis. Both groups are pro-India and want to maintain distance from China. Soon after coming to power, Prachanda appointed senior Nepali Congress leader Deep Kumar Upadhyay as Kathmandu’s envoy to New Delhi in a clear indication of his government’s desire to mend fences with India.
His government has already received a rap from Beijing for showing pro-India tendencies. Beijing has already expressed unhappiness over “Nepal’s lack of preparedness” to receive Chinese President Xi Jinping during his proposed visit to the landlocked Himalayan country in October. China is concerned about the execution of agreements signed with the previous KP Sharma Oli regime, specially the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project. A personal initiative of Jinping, OBOR proposes connectivity and cooperation between China and its Eurasian neighbours.
India’s concern is more focused towards a peaceful and inclusive Nepal. Though small in size, Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multilingual, and multi-religious country. The challenge before any government in Nepal is to manage diversity to the satisfaction of all through the Constitution passed on September 20 last year. The liberal democratic parties want to settle the issues with consultations, whereas the communist parties have a very stringent view on the inter-ethnic differences. This has delayed amendments in the Constitution and also created widespread unrest, especially in the Madhesi-inhabited foothills areas.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Nepalese counterpart Prakash Sharan Mahat have held consultations in New Delhi to prepare the agenda for the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Prachanda. Though major agreements may not come out of this four-day visit, it would certainly be the beginning of confidence-building measures.