As the political crisis in Nepal deepens, the tug-of-war between India and China over the Hindu nation is set to intensify

With China keeping no secrets about its influence over Nepalese politicians, India is unlikely to be keen to ensure that Kathmandu remains an ally and part of its sphere of influence.

A tug-of-war is underway between India and China over Nepal, India’s neighboring north, whose unique location sees rival economies vying for its attention.

While Beijing sees Nepal as a bulwark against the “international movement targeting China”, for New Delhi the Hindu nation is important for the security of the region, a buffer, so to speak, against China, and for maintaining its sphere of influence.

The latest news on the political crisis in the Himalayan Hindu nation means that both opposing forces will step up their efforts to ensure that the new leadership, whoever it is, is on their side and not the enemy.

According to a report in Hindustan TimesChina has already kicked off efforts with Hou Yanqi, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, on Tuesday evening, meeting Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari at the Shital Niwas presidential palace.

Although the exact details of the meeting are not known, reports said it was over COVID-19 Vaccines – Hou’s visit is crucial as it came just two days after Bhandari dissolved the Nepalese parliament on the recommendation of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli.

According to reports, 68-year-old Oli recommended the move due to friction within the Nepalese Communist Party, which made it difficult for him to rule.

Oli had become prime minister after his Nepalese Communist Party won the election three years ago. Oli’s party and former Maoist rebel party had merged to form a strong Communist party to win the election.

However, there was a power struggle between Oli and the leader of the former Maoist rebels, 66-year-old Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who is also the co-chair of the NCP. Oli refused to succeed him as prime minister or to lead the party, causing problems within the party.

Even though Oli didn’t mention Prachanda or New Delhi on Sunday, it was clear that he was blaming them for the current political crisis. Second My Republic, Oli addressed lawmakers close to him on Sunday and said he was forced to make the decision to dissolve Parliament after being “cornered” within his party and conspiracies were ordered against him in collusion. with national and international forces.

“We have to ask people’s forgiveness and go for new elections because we failed to keep what we promised,” Oli told lawmakers, according to PTI.

In the past, Oli has accused India of attempting to oust him from power after the country’s parliament approved a new map of Nepal, which includes the areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura which India claims to belong to it.

Anti-Indian rhetoric was an important element of Oli’s nationalist campaign, which brought the NCP to power in 2018, and found several buyers in the Himalayan nation. But, in recent years, anti-Indian rhetoric has shifted to the military level. Under Oli, Nepal went so far as to increase the presence of the Nepalese army at the border along with India, including the opening of a border outpost near Kalapani.

On Sunday Oli played the India card again, saying he “was the victim of heightened national pride by publishing a map with the inclusion of Kalapani and Lipulekh”.

According to a report in The Kathmandu PostIn recent months, China, and especially Hou, have played a crucial role in preventing a split within the Communist Party of Nepal or the dissolution of the Oli government.

Indeed, between late April and early May 2020, Hou prevented the collapse of the government by holding back consecutive talks with the leadership of the NCP, including Oli and Prachanda, and senior leader Madhav Nepal. This unity, however, was short-lived as two months later, the faction led by Prachanda had returned to demand Oli’s resignation.

Although Oli’s pro-China stance suggests that Beijing would prefer Oli to Prachanda, and Oli may have the Chinese blessing for dissolution, according to an article in The diplomat, China really has no preference over who runs the government.

Kathmandu political analyst Chandra Dev Bhatta said this The diplomat recently that, after the political change in Nepal in 2008, “China has penetrated into Nepalese politics as well as into society”. Indeed, it was China that brought together the UML and the Maoist factions of the Nepalese Communist Party in 2018.

Growing Chinese influence meant India was getting a cold shoulder, especially with Oli at the helm.

After months of cold, Nepal had started warming up in India in the past three months following several high-level visits. The first was in October by RAW Chief Samang Goel, followed by Army Chief of Staff General MM Naravane (4 November), and finally by visits by Indian Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla at the end of the month.

Shringla had flown to Kathmandu just two days before China’s Defense Minister and State Councilor Wei Fenghe visited the Himalayan nation. China, through Ambassador Hou, already has unlimited access to Nepalese leaders, including Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari and rival leaders of the Nepalese Communist Party Oli and Prachanda.

In the past, in fact, Nepalese President Bhandari held meetings with Hou without officials from the Nepal Foreign Office, violating the diplomatic code of conduct.

Nepal’s voters are expected to elect a new government in April-May, although the fate of these elections remains uncertain. A constitutional bench of the Nepalese Supreme Court will begin hearing at least a dozen petitions challenging the dissolution of the Nepalese parliament on Friday.

In a cautious reaction to political developments in Nepal, India on Thursday called Oli’s decision to dissolve parliament and demand new elections as an “internal matter” for the country to decide according to its democratic processes.

“We have taken note of recent political developments in Nepal. These are internal issues that Nepal must decide according to its democratic processes,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said at a press conference.

“As a neighbor and benevolent, India will continue to support Nepal and its people in moving forward on the path of peace, prosperity and development,” he said.

However, as Beijing keeps no secrets about its influence over Nepalese politicians, New Delhi is unlikely to care about ensuring Kathmandu remains an ally and part of its sphere of influence. All the more so since China is making its way into the territory of Nepal.

Under Oli, China allegedly occupied strategic lands in 11 locations across Nepal. “About 36 hectares of land in four districts of Nepal, bordering China, have been illegally occupied by China, but so far the Nepalese government is gritty,” according to a report in The Statesman.

India would not want someone who is indifferent to its security concerns and also its sphere of influence, but at the same time, India also needs to pay attention to Nepal’s key economic and strategic interests that drove Nepal in the first place towards China.

With input from agencies

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