India adopts wait-&-watch policy over Nepal tussle

The Times of India


India maintained a studied silence on political developments in Nepal on Monday, even as New Delhi conveyed its "displeasure" to Kathmandu over being dragged into what it believes is "externalising" a domestic debate. Regardless of how things pan out, the latest in a series of events have damaged PM Narendra Modi's big Nepal initiative of 2014.

Nepal PM K P Oli has not covered himself with glory in the past year which saw bruising protests by Madhes groups in the Terai against discrimination in the Nepalese Constitution. Oli's relationship with India hit rock bottom, while he played the China "card" to display "independence" from New Delhi. As former envoy to Nepal, Rakesh Sood explains, "Oli has remained preoccupied with polarising politics. He has not reached out to other political forces — neither the NC nor UDMF. Governance is hampered, most visible in the absence of any progress on the much needed post- quake reconstruction. In addition, by playing the nationalist card, he has blamed India for all his problems, taking relations to new low."

"The Nepal government is committed to resolving the political and Constitutional issues within the framework of the Constitution through dialogue and consensus," Oli said during his visit to India in February. On his first visit as PM, he said he "dedicated his visit to eliminating the misunderstanding" with India. Two months later, bilateral relations are strained again with his allegation about India interfering in Nepal's domestic affairs.

Oli's government is safe for the time being, but Indian sources said Prachanda could mount another challenge some time later. Former foreign secretary and envoy to Nepal, Shyam Saran said this event was not unusual in Nepalese politics. "However, the propaganda against India is talking hold," he said. The question being asked is, what caused Prachanda to turn around and go back to supporting Oli? Some sources said while Prachanda had supposedly got support from the Madhesi parties, he may not have been confident of their support.

But separately, it is believed the Chinese quietly stepped in and asked Prachanda to maintain stability of the government and Left unity. Between 2008 and 2012, Maoists teamed up with UML to provide four PMs in rotation, two from UML and two from UCPN (Maoist), so these two parties have a natural fit. But if the Chinese intervention actually happened, it would be one of those rare moments when China weighed in during a domestic political crisis.