The dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) by Prime Minister KP Oli has not only drawn the attention of the international community but has also resulted in the spurring of activities by Nepal’s neighboring countries.
A delegation from China arrived in Kathmandu to “take stock” of the current political scenario soon after the dissolution of the HoR. The high-level delegation engaged in high-level meetings with political top notches.
Meanwhile, another neighbor, India, has been watching the political developments with keen interest.
With the dissolution of the HoR, the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) experienced a vertical split (though yet to be formally announced) with a section of observers in India interpreting it as India’s victory and China’s defeat.
Meanwhile, there are some analysts in New Delhi, who believe that Nepal’s instability is not in favor of India.
In this regard, Institute for Strategic and Socio-Economic Research Center (ISSR) affiliated researcher Purushottam Poudel had had a virtual conversation with Dr. Nihar Nayak of Mohan Parrikar Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis based in Delhi. Excerpts of the conversation:
India, which had “noted” the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal has reiterated its stance saying it has “noted the recent political developments in Nepal”. The disbanded parliament, formed standing on the principle of the same Constitution should have made India happy, isn’t it?
As a promoter of democracy and parliamentary system, India had in 2015 “suggested” Nepal not to make a hurried decision in the promulgation of the Constitution.
The issue is not about becoming happy or unhappy with Nepal’s latest political developments. India has noted the developments as Nepal’s internal matter. When India suggested Nepal prior to the promulgation of the new constitution, a substantial number of Kathmandu-based political leaders, intellectuals, and media interpreted it as an interference in Nepal’s internal affairs. Therefore, India then chose to ‘note’ the development. This time, too, Indians considered it as an internal affair of Nepal. Therefore, India expressed its observations by saying “noted”. If Nepali is happy, then India is happy. India can only share its experiences in the multi-party-parliamentary democracy if Nepal asks for that office.
Before and after the dissolution of HoR, India is keenly observing China’s activities in Nepal. Is India’s observation of Chinese activities has something to do with a neighboring country?
In fact, India needs to keep an eye on extra-regional forces’ engagements in its neighborhood. Since Nepal is a strategically important country, India becomes extra alert about other countries’ interests.
Previously, in cases of tensions between India and Nepal, there are instances of Nepal seeking Chinese support. During that time, China had advised Nepal to amicably resolve all misunderstandings with India. Chinese policy has drastically changed since 2015. India was concerned about the Chinese design of setting up a single-party communist regime in Nepal. In this regard, it had played a key role in bringing the left parties together in 2018. After the formation of NCP, the CPC had signed an MoU regarding the establishment of fraternal relations between the two parties in September 2019. Currently, when China has been meddling between the two factions of the NCP, India has been observing it closely. In this regard, India’s effort will be to preserve and protect the democratic values in Nepal. Therefore, India may not mind working with like-minded institutions in Nepal.
What is your observation about the diplomatic gesture from China after the recent political developments in Nepal?
China has shown its desperation and nervousness while it found that its vision of establishing a single-party communist regime is in trouble due to deepening factionalism in the NCP after the HoR dissolution. China has been trying to keep the NCP unity intact. If that does not work out well, China can expect the two factions to form a left coalition government in the future.
India and China are having relations of cooperation, competition, and conflict one at a time. But when it comes to Nepal-China relations, why is India so skeptical? Is it because India thinks Nepal is not capable enough to handle China?
India is not skeptical at all. This is just an imagination of some Nepali media houses. India did not oppose when Nepal had joined the BRI. India also did not oppose when Nepal had signed the trade and transit agreement with China. India even did not say anything while the CPC had an agreement with the NCP for fraternal relationships. India is confident about its relations with Nepal. As long as Nepal is committed to addressing India’s security concerns, India would not have any problem with Nepal having relations with other countries. However, India will express its concerns bilaterally over any attempt of derailing democracy by any extra-regional powers, including China.
India has started to re-engage with Nepal on multiple fronts of late. How did the relationship come to the point of continuous engagement from the point of no dialogue?
Misunderstanding between neighbors is common. There was a phase of misunderstanding between Nepal-India over certain issues in the past. Now, both countries have realized that they need to improve bilateral relations by addressing all contentious issues. Nepal has taken a position on the border issues by bringing amendments to the constitution. This prevents the path towards dialogue.
China seems to be trying to keep the NCP unity intact at any cost. The parliament was dissolved to thwart China’s efforts, and the repercussion came with the dis-unification of the NCP. What’s your take on this?
As I said earlier, India will work with like-minded institutions to secure multi-party parliamentary democracy in Nepal. India has been doing this since 1950.
There has been a controversy within the Nepal Communist Party over the US aid project Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Some people have started to interpret the recent incident from that perspective as well. How does India view the MCC?
Nepal will be benefited from the MCC. A substantial number of Nepali people argue that there is a hidden security agenda in the MCC. However, the MCC draft does not reflect anything as such. If security is the factor of not approving the MCC, then BRI can be interpreted as a security threat to India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Since India alone cannot counter the growing Chinese presence in South Asia, including in Nepal, India is accused of supporting MCC so that China will be countered in this pretext. How true is this?
The MCC was announced in 2018. India has been dealing with China since 1950 onwards. India is confident that its South Asian neighbors will always remain friendly and cooperative to keep this region free from external influences.
When the HoR was dissolved in Nepal, some Indian analysts analyzed the incident as a victory for India and a defeat for China. Is Nepal’s instability in the interest of India?
That is their personal observation. Since the political stability of Nepal is intrinsically related to India’s national security, any kind of political instability — whether internally or externally induced — will be a concern to India. However, keeping Nepal’s sensitivity into consideration, India would prefer to express that concerns bilaterally to restore normalcy.