K.P. Oli arrives for prime ministerial election at the parliament in Kathmandu
FILE PHOTO: Prime Minister candidate and Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML) Khadga Prashad Oli, also known as K.P. Oli, arrives for a prime ministerial election at the parliament in Kathmandu, Nepal, October 11, 2015. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar/File photo

In Nepal, a country that is moving toward political stability, Bidya Devi Bhandari on Tuesday was re-elected president for a second term.

On October 28, 2015, Bhandari was elected as the first female president of Nepal, as a candidate from the left alliance. Very soon, the country will elect a new vice-president, but it is most likely that the left alliance has already chosen its preference for that post.

Last Sunday, Nepal’s newly elected Prime Minister K P Oli gained a remarkable vote of confidence with a two-thirds majority in Parliament, or 208 votes out of the total of 268 members present in the House of Representatives.

Oli received votes from the left alliance and other parties including Rastriya Janata.

Most people believe that under the leadership of Prime Minister K P Oli, now Nepal will take the right track for its economic growth and prosperity, but there are a lot of challenges ahead in coming days. On one side he has an enormous opportunity to become a statesman for the nation, but at the same time on another side Oli and his regime will face geo-strategic games. For the past three decades, Nepal’s foreign policy has fallen into the complexity of geopolitics.

Indian hegemony

Can Prime Minister K P Oli adopt a balanced foreign policy? Or can he break away from Indian hegemony? These are major questions being asked by the public.

During the Indian blockade in 2015, Oli stood very strongly and raised his voice against the blockade, which was praiseworthy. But the people of Nepal want to see the collapse of Indian hegemony from Nepal forever, and they also want to reduce Nepal’s dependence on India in business.

Nepal and India are close neighbors; they share culture, land and many other things. Despite that, after the 2015 blockade, people in Nepal were upset with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. No matter how many times Modi and other high-level official visit Nepal, or no matter how much help they provide, it will be very difficult to improve bilateral relations.

Because of the Indian blockade, there was a big humanitarian crisis in Nepal – there was no cooking gas, no medicine in the hospitals, and schools were completely shut down. In 2015 when Nepal adopted a new constitution, India opposed it and started the blockade. India claims that it is the largest democratic country in the world, but how does that give it the right to reject Nepal’s constitution?

Actually, the new constitution was approved by more than 90% of the total strength of the Constituent Assembly of Nepal. The first thing India should not forget is that Nepal is a sovereign country and that it must maintain a policy of harmony with Nepal, not hegemony. India must correct its hegemonic attitude, otherwise relations become more complicated.

We Nepalis want harmony with India. Of course, we do have an open border system, and both countries’ people enjoy free movement through the border. But that does not mean Nepal is an Indian state, and that whatever India wants to do, it can. Indians must respect Nepal’s sovereignty.

After K P Oli and his left alliance won the majority of seats at the provincial level and in the national House of Representatives, Modi had a conversation with him and congratulated him. In the first week of February, Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj made a surprise visit to Kathmandu. That was the first step toward reconciliation. Swaraj was the first high-level visitor to Nepal after the election, and it was just before the formation of the new government of the left alliance.

Is K P Oli pro-China?

We Nepalis are neither pro-China nor pro-India. First of all, we are Nepali and we are citizens of a sovereignty country. Both India and China are good neighbors.

Nepal is a landlocked country, and as such has a natural right to access to the nearest seaport. So far Nepal has used only Indian seaports despite various obstacles. Now it wants to open another door toward China for trade and business. Maybe in the future, if Nepal and China establish a rail connection, then Nepal can use Chinese seaports as well.

In diplomatic affairs, India and China have an enormous engagement and bigger interests than Nepal. We know that India and China have border issues and recently had a military standoff, but on another side they are huge business partners as well. But no one is telling them they are playing the China card or the India card or are pro-China or for India. When Nepal maintains relations with China, why is it blamed as pro-China or for playing the China card?

These are baseless statements from a poor mind. Nepal needs economically sustainable development, not any “cards.”

Narayan Adhikari

The author is a researcher on national security and terrorism.

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