It is time for India to understand and make up its mind on KP Oli’s game plan.
Lo and behold, after KP Oli became the Prime Minster of Nepal, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Prime Minster of Pakistan, became the first foreign visitor to Nepal, whom Oli received on 5 March this year.
Agreed that Nepal and Pakistan are both SAARC countries but what is common between them beyond that for Abbassi to visit Nepal other than China? With its economy itself in doldrums and the country neck deep in debt, in what way can Pakistan help Nepal? The only common thread between them is that one is sworn enemy of India and other is trying to project itself as an independent foreign country, away from Indian influence, under Oli. So be it, but India now must reshape its Nepal policy and not fall into the trap of appeasing Nepal.
Tarai people of Nepal, also called Madhesis, are basically of Indian origin. When in 2015, the Nepali Constituent Assembly adopted a Constitution not favouring Madhesis, despite Indian pressure on them to be even handed towards the rights of Madhesis, the stage was set for confrontation with India of hill people elite of Nepal.
Oli wants to play a game and make both India and China competitors in wooing Nepal.
After the Nepali political elite did not listen to India, Madhesis imposed a blockade on the border, crippling essential supplies. This generated a backlash in Kathmandu and the hills. However, instead of maintaining its aim of assisting Madeshis in their rightful demands, India developed cold feet and lost out on all fronts. It annoyed all communities including Madhesis. Typical blunders of the Indian bureaucracy. KP Oli and his ilk saw in this a victory and since then have been trying to prove that they can follow a policy independent of India by cozying up to China. Of course, China is ever ready to oblige.
Oli’s romance with China started in 2016 when he visited China. There he signed three dozen pacts including the Transit and Transport pact. China also gave a 3 billion yuan loan to Oli for reconstruction work. While Nepal’s total exports to China are 181 million dollars, its import from China is growing by 39 per cent annually. China is the second largest source of foreign tourists to Nepal. Nepal holds an observer status in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
What is somewhat a worrying factor is the fact that India and Nepal had appointed an Eminent Persons Group (EPG), consisting of four members each, to go into the gamut of all aspects of the 1950 Treaty between India and Nepal. It is now clear that Nepalis are going to recommend complete overhaul of this treaty. That is OK but what is bothersome is that Nepali members are insisting that there should be complete regulation of border between the two countries, as also documentation of entry and exit of each person.
India should make it clear to Nepal that it is not going to become a competitor along with China.
It is time for India to understand and make up its mind on KP Oli’s game plan. Oli wants to play a game and make both India and China competitors in wooing Nepal. India should make it clear to Nepal that it is not going to become a competitor along with China.
If Nepal wants to sit on China’s lap, it is most welcome to do so. If Nepal thinks that Pakistan will come rushing to its help, so be it! India could not care less. If Nepal wants to regulate the borders then so be it! But then, no Nepali will be allowed to work in India without a work permit. India should also disband all Nepali Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army. We have sufficient Gorkhas of Indian origin in our country. Finally, India should also make it clear to Nepal that Madhesis are of Indian origin, so India will not compromise their interests come what may! India should also stop granting loans to Nepal on subsidised rates. Every deal should be on a country to country basis.