Nepal’s Changing Priorities in Foreign Policy - Reasons and Motivation

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K.P.Sharma Oli and his kitchen cabinet are trying to create a bitter environment so that distancing theory of western forces can be implemented. The current scenario is the continuation of the strategic game plan where India has to compete with China, US, EU and Pakistan in Kathmandu to dilute it’s interests.
 - Devesh Jha
Nepal Chinese Ambassador_
Chinese Ambassador in Kathmandu, Hou Yanqi is said to have “inspired” PM Oli to redraw Nepal map in order to antagonise India
Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli accused Indian establishment of conspiring for his removal from the office. On the occasion of birth anniversary function of former general secretary of the then UML late Madan Bhandari he bitterly responded about the ongoing meet of NCP permanent committee. He argues that all it was made due to his efforts on making agreements with Chinese counterparts.
Everyone was taken aback when Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli made these remarks. He visited India and had a meeting with high-level political leaders and intellectuals in India and had cordial relations with the Indian establishment. Personally too, PM Oli had his first kidney transplant in India with the support of Indian establishment. However, recently Nepal-India relations are taking a different turn and intellectuals feel that PM Oli’s remarks are responsible for these new developments.
The recent tension in Nepal-India relation began when Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted about the inaugural event of a road linking to China border near Kalapani. Nepal claimed India constructed the road through the land of Nepal and streets of Kathmandu valley witnessed violent protests. Media, student unions and civil society started making the atmosphere hot.
At first, PM Oli, in an interview with a national TV channel, said that he never read anything about the claimed territory belongs to Nepal. Suddenly it became a national issue, and leaders of different political parties started making opinions on Kalapani. At the same time, Oli was in big trouble within his party, and the issue of territory brought a recovery for him.
A cabinet meeting directed the concerned minister to submit a full-size map of Nepal including the claimed territory. However, Nepal and India have prepared 182 sheets of boundary maps earlier besides Kalapani and Susta. As per the agreed boundary maps, Nepal and India have begun the demarcation of the border, which was likely to be completed in 2022. Within days all the documents made clear and endorsed by the cabinet. Then questions about the national stamp arouse and need for a constitutional amendment was sought. That was too is done in a week. The Parliament passed the amendment on soon.
Indian media had a lot of speculations about this sudden development in Nepal. Some speculations indicated it to China favour policy of Nepal whereas others claimed it to be irresponsible behaviour of Indian media. Media developed imaginary theories of Nepal-India relations based on their speculations. Some speculated the present situation has its connection with the twelve point’s agreement made with Indian assistance whereas others speculated the blockade of 2015 was responsible. Some even rumoured that, if the situation got worse, there could be blockade and these rumours spread widely through social media in Nepal.
On May 15, Indian Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane remarked that Nepal might be raising the issue of road construction via Lipulekh to Mansarovar by Indian authorities at the “behest of someone else”. Talking in a webinar, General Naravane, without naming China, said on last Friday, “There is reason to believe that they might have raised this issue at the behest of someone else and that is very much possible.” The road constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is on the west side of Kali River. So, I do not know what exactly they are agitating about,” he added. Narvane’s statement escalated protests against India in the streets of Kathmandu.
Indian media speculated this ‘behest of someone’ to be China. Based on such speculations, Indian media repeatedly claimed the role of China for the recent development of Nepal-India relations. Coincidentally, in the meantime, Sino-India territorial conflict escalated in Laddakh. Much of Indian media started looking at Sino-India conflict, and Nepal-India border issues strategic and parallel development and they put forward the government of Nepal led by Nepal Communist Party as the hard-core evidence for it. On the other hand, Nepalese media found it to be humiliating.
Both Indian and Chinese establishments indeed attempt to influence the political establishment in Nepal. After the fall of the royal regime in Nepal, Chinese strategically increased their influence on Nepal. This caused a power imbalance between Chinese and Indian ideologies, i.e., one-party system communist regime of China and West ministerial multi-party parliamentary system of India. Before 1990, the party-less panchayat system of Nepal had a balanced foreign policy, particularly with immediate neighbours.
The movement in 1990 brought a drastic change in the political system in Nepal. Nepal endorsed a multi-party parliamentary system with the constitutional monarchy after the promulgation of a new constitution that was not accepted by Chinese in a cheerful mode, but they avoid making any remarks.
The Indian side always doubted relations between Nepal and China. Time and again Indian media blamed Nepal for using China card, a baseless accusation to Nepali political system, against India. Whenever Nepalese leadership get closer with the Chinese leadership, this provokes bitter speculations in Indian media. Speculative and provocative outbursts in Indian media has become a regular phenomenon that Nepal has moved to the side of China. Although a lot of such speculative outbursts have been aired in India media, no one has substantive evidence and convincing arguments to prove exact Chinese engagement with affairs in Nepal. Indian establishment claims that the road Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated had a long history of trade between India and China since British Raj in India.
On May 15 2015, India and China issued a joint statement stating the expansion of border trade through Lipu-Lekh pass. Clause (28) of the statement clause says, “The two sides recognised that enhancing border areas cooperation through border trade, pilgrimage by people of the two countries and other exchanges can effectively promote mutual trust, and agreed to broaden this cooperation further to transform the border into a bridge of cooperation and exchanges. The two sides agreed to hold negotiation on augmenting the list of traded commodities, and expand border trade at Nathu-La, Qiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass and Shipki-La.”
When China and India reached an agreement to build bilateral trade corridors through Lipu-Lekh via the Indian state of Uttarakhand in 2015, Nepal took up the issue with both countries. The Government of Nepal wrote to both New Delhi and Beijing about the agreement, but neither New Delhi nor Beijing responded to the concerns of Nepal.
India started the construction of the road via Lipulekh, the disputed region, quite a long time ago but Nepal did not interfere, neither Chinese had a say on this matter. The issue became a matter of public interest when Indian Defence Minister inaugurated the road. Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, the leader of Nepal Communist Party argued the issue to be settled with a trilateral talk with Nepal, China and India.
Immediately Chinese authorities rejected it outright. They called the Nepalese diplomat at Beijing and communicated that it was a bilateral issue between Nepal and India Further, in an interview with the official media of Government of Nepal, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal made the stand of China clear on this issue. India knows that the construction of the road to Kailash Mansarovar boosts the pilgrim tourism in not only the region but also accessibility to the region will offer a high turnover in economic activities along with huge India-China trade. Moreover, China sees the road instrumental in reaching its goods to the vast Indian market. Financial issues determine modern bilateral matters. When India started the construction of the road to Kailash Mansarovar, China knew that the road opens South Asian market to Chinese goods.
The strategic geo-political importance of Nepal between China and India has drawn the attention of international powers. This is the region that very often western powers show interest in the affairs of Nepal and manipulate in many different ways. This manipulation began when the British arrived in the Indian Sub-Continent, and this got intensified in the post-colonial era because of the vested interest of the western powers such as the US and the European Union.
Strategic regional enterprises of India and China such as BIMSTEC of India led group and BRI of Chinese initiation often put Nepal under challenging situations as both the powers wanted to secure relationship with Nepal. In addition to these regional powers, Nepal also has to face the interests of the western powers, for example, the issue of MCC at present. To fulfil their interest, these powers manipulate Nepali politics by offering a huge amount of financing in infrastructure and, in return, they want to secure their presence in the region.
On January 11, 2019, Phill Davidson, the commander of US Indo Pacific Command, visited Nepal. After his visit, a report published on the strategic defence planning of America for Nepal. The document highlights the future plans including counter-terrorism, defence professionalisation, ground force capacity, peacekeeping operations etc. The document also clarifies regular visits of high-level Defence personnel. From events of this sort, it is evident that western powers understand the geo-political position of Nepal and they want to make their presence here for the regional manipulation at the time of conflict.
Nepal’s geographical location makes it impossible for the western powers to establish any strategic movement without the consent of two Asian giants of India and China. To settle its interest, the US manipulates Nepal strategically with regional consent. Because of ideological differences with China, the US has no option other than India as a regional power that supports the US interest.
The INGO/NGOs also manipulate politics and policymaking in different ways. These INGO/NGOs get involved in political processes by manipulating leadership. To understand the strategic games deeply, we have to know the relationship between INGO/NGOs and leadership of Nepal. This country’s geo-political position is always a major concern for western forces. They continuously involved in the political process, even in the monarchy regime. Funding for developments was a dilemma tactic to shadow their hidden agendas. Even Maoists insurgency was started just the next day after the closing of “Unified Rapti Multipurpose Project”. There are peoples worked in INGO’s previously are still alive who set up the office in Rolpa, the headquarters of Maoist.
Leaders of different political parties are directly involved with western funding through NGO. Their spouse or nearby relatives operate most of them. In the early days of the multi-party parliamentary system, India tried to engage in various hydropower projects like ‘Arun valley’ and ‘Pancheshwar’. But then demonstrations, debates were started to disrupt those and the whole scenario was arranged by NGOs which was operated by these leader’s relatives.
Again the same is happening in Nepal. Now NGOs have severely damaged their image due to corruption; western forces are directly engaging with political parties. EU and US-sponsored politicians are acting as per guidelines. Nepali Congress leadership is more open with western political leaders, whereas there seems to be a vertical line with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in the ruling party. PM Oli, defence Minister IshworPokharel, foreign minister PradipGyawali and finance minister Dr Yuba Raj Khatiwada with their supporters are in favour of it.
In contrast, former PM Jhalanath Khanal, former defence minister Bhim Rawal with internal support of Prachanda kitchen cabinet are among the opponents. If China highly influences PM Oli and his kitchen cabinet, then how could they insisting pressure to accept MCC, which is very well known about the strategic plan for the US. Meanwhile, Kathmandu based US Embassy is the first diplomatic mission publishing constitutionally amended map of Nepal on its official Face book page could explain very much.
Right now Nepal is passing through a political crisis as the senior members of the ruling party asked the resignation of the Prime Minister. President Bidya Devi Bhandari with the recommendation of PM Oli call an end of the budget session for this fiscal year. There are big chances of re-implementation of introducing notification for amendment of the constitution to make softness in the act of division for political parties. By this action PM Oli can open easy access for division in his party NCP to form NCP(UML), already in the process for registration in the election commission and could be able to form an alliance with Nepali Congress which had already endorsed a vote of support for MCC in its parliamentary party or others who are supporting MCC.
Chinese prefer direct actions in Nepal because they didn’t trust leadership. After the publishing of an article against them in Kathmandu Post, its editor Anup Kafle had to resign. And some says that was the root cause for the resignation of information minister too. Recently Kantipur daily had to issue an apology in a humiliating manner for the news of territorial violations of China in the northern border of Nepal. In early May there was a violent protest of Chinese nationals before Nepal’s secretariat Singh Durbar. They brutally misbehaved with Nepalese police officers, but the leaders had to keep mum on it.
India published its new map on November 2, 2019, after Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were created by splitting the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. The map also showed the region of Kalapani as part of the Indian territory. A press meet was called by foreign minister Pradip Gyawali on November 3 at hotel Marriot in Kathmandu where he ignored to reply to a query regarding this. Similarly, a program arranged in Pakistan embassy to show staggered on it attended by several leaders including the then chairman of Federal Socialist Forum, Upendra Yadav. On November 4, 2019, the Kathmandu Post featured a story claiming Lipu-lekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani as part of Nepalese territory. On November 6, 2019, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu released a statement saying Kalapani is a part of Nepalese territory. The press release came on Ministry’s letterhead with an unauthorised signature. On November 7, 2019, a group of students affiliated to Nepali Congress protested shouting anti-India slogans in front of Indian Embassy.
Actually, after the 1990 movement in Nepal, western forces are eagerly waiting to put forth their agenda for secularism, but due to the continuation of monarchy, it was unacceptable. Finally, they got the chance for this after 2006 when re-established Parliament passed a bill for secularism even not a single political leader is ready to accept the ownership for this till now. Nepalese peoples never accepted that, and it is remaining a big question for society. The Supreme Court of India declared the final judgment in the Ayodhya dispute on November 9, 2019, ordered the disputed land (2.77 acres) to be handed over to a trust (to be created by Government of India) to build the Ram Janmabhoomi (revered as the birthplace of Hindu deity, Ram) temple.
As the Supreme Court of India verdicts in favour of Ram Mandir, there was a chance to get igniting a momentum of Hindu state and to demotivate the people of Nepal; a big game plan was played strategically. Now a day’s western forces propaganda tarnished Indian image very badly in Nepal. They are making a controversial scenario and conspiring for breaking age-old traditional ties. There are voices to cause permanent detachment and closing of the special relationship on both sides, which is sponsored by the same sector.
Nepal’s PM Oli is continually trying to provoke India as he commented in Parliament on national emblem of India, used cheap words, amended map but not getting any harsh response from the south, he again goes for teasing the law of nationality. Suddenly parliamentary committee became active to clear the amendments in law for nationality act. They focused on the issue of the naturalised action in which a woman of foreign national married to the Nepali citizen can get naturalised citizenship after seven years only. Previously it could be available just after starting the process of leaving her native country’s citizenship. Right now Nepal has a population of approximately 30 million, and nearly 21.2 million have already got the citizenship certificates with only 325 thousand are having naturalised citizenship which clearly shows that there could be no chance of any adverse impact due to it.
Most of naturalised citizenship holders are from India, but the geography of marital migration is not only from southern plains as it is claimed. Nepalese peoples are married in India from the east in Darjeeling, Assam and Kumaon, Garhwal at western side equally. There is a misconception that moreover Madhesi are only marrying Indian brides. It would be better to understand and accept that almost every family in Nepal has an Indian bride in their house. All this hue and cry is made to increase the anti-Indian feelings only.
K.P.Sharma Oli and his kitchen cabinet are trying to create a bitter environment so that distancing theory of western forces can be implemented. The current scenario is the continuation of the strategic game plan activated in November last year. India has to compete with China, US, EU and Pakistan in Kathmandu to dilute their vested interests. The US want to deploy its forces, EU has the responsibility for fulfilment of Vatican’s wishes, Pakistan is interested in the humiliation of India and for China, and all are getting free of cost. Western forces, including the US, must make a big gap with an extremely bitter relationship between Nepal and India socially till BJP led govt is in the centre so that the chances of revocation for Hindu state Nepal may be pushed far and to achieve the strategic target they are sponsoring both sides.
Regarding map issue, Indian media is presenting itself with a theory of belief that every anti-India movement is designed and directed by China, which may be one angle of the scene. But far behind it, there is a deep-rooted mission for the continuation of secularism because only that will be a solid base to relay and execute strategic programs staying between majorly Hindu populated India and Buddhist populated Tibet, illegally occupied by China.