Interview with SD Muni: ‘India is always sensitive to the growing influence of third powers in Nepal’

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SD Muni is considered to be one of India’s foremost experts on the issue of Nepal. He taught for over 30 years at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). He completed his Ph.D. in Nepal’s foreign policy in 1972. He has also published a number of books on Nepal. Mero Tribune talks with him about the current situation of Nepal and Indian foreign policy regarding Nepal-

How is the Indian foreign policy establishment looking at Nepal right now?

Indian foreign policy is in a state of wait and watches regarding Nepal. Nepal has an uneasy coalition and it is going through the process of election. A clearer picture will emerge only after the elections. However, there is a strong possibility of a fragmented verdict and another coalition government. India’s preference would be for a government that has no or weak communist section and a strong Democratic and Madesh representation. There are sections in India’s ruling establishment that may also welcome the rise of Hindutva and monarchical forces in Nepal. India is also keen to counter politically generated and instigated anti-Indian nationalism in Nepal that manifests on various issues like border disputes, slow progress on developmental projects, or integration of marginalized communities into the mainstream under the new Constitution. Generally, India’s policy establishments get active in Nepal only when there is a crisis and India’s interests are seriously challenged. Otherwise, most of India’s efforts and diplomatic capital are invested in dealing with major powers, China and Indo-Pacific region.

India has formally proposed Naveen Srivastava as the new ambassador to Nepal, who is an expert in dealing with China. Do you think India wants to counter Beijing’s efforts to widen its influence in the Himalayan country’s politics and economy?

India has always been sensitive to the growing influence of third powers in Nepal. For the past decade or so, the growing Chinese presence in Nepal is considered a matter of concern. Anyone else than Mr. Srivastava will have to deal with the Chinese presence in Nepal. However in recent months, the Chinese are also facing considerable difficulties in Nepal. the BRI is not working smoothly and Chinese interference in domestic politics has generated a strong backlash. 

Nepal recently passed MCC from the parliament. What is your view on this?

MCC was an issue between Nepal and the US. Nepal should not have delayed its response to commitments already made in this regard. The MCC grant will only help Nepal build infrastructure and balance its dependence on China. 

 What are your current academic focuses? 

I remain interested in issues of India’s foreign and security policies in relation to immediate and extended neighbors.

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