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Is Nepal’s politics wrecking India ties?

By Pratim Ranjan Bose – For a country dependent on India for its essential resources and 70 per cent of exports, Nepal has dealt two major blows to bilateral relations.
First, the KP Oli government nixed a scheduled visit of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s to Delhi beginning May 9 on grounds of “lack of preparations”.
Then, Oli recalled the High Commissioner (sic) to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyay – a Nepali Congressman – alleging, among other things, his ‘involvement’ in toppling the government.
The decisions came on the heels of the dramatic May 4 announcement by UCPN (Maoist) chief Prachanda withdrawing support to the Oli government. This move itself came after a visit to New Delhi of the new National (sic) Congress (NC) president, Sher Bahadur Deuba. According to sources, Deuba was giving final touches to a coalition deal with the Maoists, allegedly with the tacit support of India.
Considering the power play of its two large neighbours – India and China – in Nepal’s politics, it can be no surprise if the NC, the single largest party with 196 seats, plans a deal with Maoists (80 seats).
Oli did the same in October 2015, when his Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), with 175 seats, withdrew support to a Congress-led coalition, and Oli became Prime Minister with the support of his adversary, the Maoists. But it was not a happy coalition, with Maoists not in agreement with Oli’s anti-Madhesi stance.
Oli also denied Maoists the chance to appoint their nominees in the Judiciary and the bureaucracy. According to a senior analyst, protests by Prachanda saw war crime allegations against him re-surfacing.
According to Roshan Khadka, Executive Editor of muldharnews.com, a Kathmandu-based portal on politics and defence issues, the Maoists had been in discussion with the NC for two months.
Things moved rapidly thereafter but not the way the stakeholders wanted. According to sources, China was displeased with the Maoists’ move, and wanted the coalition to continue; Khadka confirms “Chinese suggestion” in favour of the coalition.
What happened next is not clear. According to some, Prachanda yielded to the Chinese pressure. Others say India failed to extend timely support to the NC-Maoist coalition.
Prachanda’s party was also divided, with ministers not keen to vacate the seats. As Prachanda did a U-turn and went back to supporting Oli, the Prime Minister didn’t miss the opportunity to use his ultra-nationalist (read, anti-India) card. “Nepal’s politics is now China-ruled,” says Terai-based analyst Chandra Kishore.
But Kathmandu-based political watchers don’t think Oli can continue to destabilise the relationship with India for long.
“Nepal’s economy is dependent on India and, it is he who stressed in February the need for stabilising the relationship,” says Uddhab Prasad Pyakurel, an assistant professor of international relations at Kathmandu University.
He thinks a politically unstable Terai and a proactive Congress will bring trouble for the ruling coalition sooner than later.
(The Hindu)