Rectifying the mistakes made in the past, the KP Oli administration has made an overture to India for the normalization of ties.
Due to its unique geopolitical location, Nepal cannot afford to have India in the latter’s bad books. Indeed, certain elements in both sides of the border as well as foreign interest groups have tried to derail the relationship between these two countries. But Nepali people should keep in mind that the expired Nehruvian thought of treating Nepal as a vassal state has given way to the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “neighbourhood first” and “sab ka saath, sab kaa bikas”.
Nepal’s constitution provides for the equal relationship with both the neighbours. But the Nepali leaders attempted to make various geopolitical moves that effectively alienated India. Electoral alliance between two communist parties, viz. CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre (later merged into Nepal Communist Party-NCP) was made with China’s tacit approval and it secured almost two-thirds majority riding on the nationalist wave with blockade at the Indian border fresh in Nepali voters’ mind.
India had expressed its displeasure to the new constitution of Nepal that enshrined secularism and backed the agitators in the border which was de-facto a blockade. It appeared that Modi government was unhappy with the insertion of secularism in the new Nepali constitution but Nepali leaders, beholden to the west, enshrined it anyway. More importantly, they utterly disregarded Nepali people’s suggestion. But India made a diplomatic error in backing the blockade which was ultimately exploited by the communists to raise nationalism as a plank to garner votes.
Excited with the landslide votes, the communist government drove the country’s politics further towards China. Inviting Song Tao, the head of Communist Party of China (CPC)’s International Liaison Department, to participate in the ‘Ideological Discussion between the CPC and NCP on the CPC’s Opinion on Xi Jinping Thought’ was an error. China wanted to build a communist bloc in Nepal with NCP as the nucleus and Xi Jinping thought as the guiding philosophy of the party. CPC also taught Nepali politicians about governance during the discussion programme in Kathmandu.
The communists did not understand that any foreign thought is utterly inappropriate in Nepali context. Chinese and Nepali society are polar apart. Nepal enjoys cultural, societal and political similarity with India, not China. Economic, not ideological relationship, with China is good for Nepal.
Unfortunately, the left-liberal cabal in Nepal did not see China’s attempt to shape Nepali governance as interference whereas the clique is very vocal about India’s real or perceived slight against Nepal’s sovereignty. Instead, they treated it as Nepal’s endeavour to balance the relationship with India.
When cracks started to appear in the artificially arranged merger of communists, Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqui made visits to the communist leaders to keep the party intact. Again, moves by the Chinese envoy were not seen as foreign interference. Rather, it was taken as a step to entrench Nepal’s stability. But the fact is that the anarchic philosophy of communists itself poses risks to any kind of stability in the country.
The Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and Madhav Kumar Nepal faction in the NCP tried to steer the party toward hard left and excoriated PM Oli for not doing enough to achieve the so-called socialist goal. But Oli, being a pragmatic and geopolitically astute leader, did not succumb to this unwanted pressure as he is aware that letting the imported Marxist-Leninist-Maoist philosophy rule the roost will spell disaster in the long run. Although having cut his political teeth in the same communist philosophy, Oli is in thrall to Sanatan dharma and Hindu philosophy.
The same anarchic cabal in the NCP (mercifully the party has split now) egged on to further torpedo the relationship with India. The sensitive issue of Kalapani-Lipulekh-Limpiyadhura needed to have been addressed with diplomatic acumen but the administrative map of the country was hastily enshrined in the constitution. And Oli made mistakes by uttering unsavoury statements against India at that time. Mocking the Indian emblem and terming the Indian variant of coronavirus as more lethal than the Chinese was unwarranted. A statesman should never be swayed away by the emotions, no matter how tense the situation is.
Nonetheless, Oli seems to have learnt his lessons. You cannot wish away a neighbour that surrounds you from three directions and it is the one you are disproportionately dependent upon for your supplies. The lure of the dragon can take Nepal only so far whereas the geo-economic and geopolitical realities of Nepal makes it highly dependent on India. After all, Nepali people can express nationalism without being antagonist to India.
Keeping this fact in mind, Oli invited R&AW Chief Samanta Kumar Goel, Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale of Indiaiya Janata Party, Indian Army Chief General MM Narvane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Bardhan Shringala to Nepal. These high-level visits have helped in restoring normalcy in ties. India also made a wise move in refraining from commenting on Nepal’s internal affairs (when PM Oli dissolved the parliament and when the Supreme Court reinstated the parliament).
But a section of the Nepali society is heaping anathema on the normalization of ties between Nepal and India. A flurry of articles by Jawaharlal Nehru University dropouts (pseudo-intellectual champagne socialists) excoriating the government for reaching out to the Indian government have appeared in vernacular dailies in Nepal.
Indian babus with Nehruvian mind-set and disdainful of the Modi government have been equally shrill in their op-eds in Lutyens’ media. They have labelled ridiculous and baseless allegations against PM Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath of trying to engineer systemic change in Nepal. Unmindful of the shifting of the Overton Window and the disillusionment of the Nepali populace for communist dogmas and pernicious influence of the west, they needlessly try to defame the Indian government.
The hard reality is that the country had been hoodwinked by the hard leftist forces who carried the religious agenda of the European Union evangelists. The Sitaram Yechuri-Shyam Saran variant of political engineering in Nepal when UPA government was ruling India has run its course. That arrangement effectively led to the flow of the Arabian petro-dollar fuelling Islamic radicals near the Indian border in Terai and the rapid rise of ricebag Christians in many parts of Nepal. This has the potential to become a security threat for both Nepal and India. Stopping these elements to achieve their nefarious goals is of paramount importance for both the countries. Trying to dissuade Nepali and Indian governments from it will do no good at all.
Upadhyaya is a Freelance Writer.