Why KP Sharma Oli proved costly to India-Nepal ties

Once considered a protégé of New Delhi in Kathmandu, this skilled Machiavellian changed his stance to harp on ultra-nationalism and court Beijing.

 |  5-minute read |   25-07-2016
  • ---
    Total Shares

The first prime minister under the new constitution of Nepal and the eighth since Nepal became a democratic republic in 2008, KP Sharma Oli, has finally resigned after completing just nine months in office.

His rise to power and a short tenure was enough to leave many legacies that will not only affect the internal politics of Nepal but also may shake the regional dynamics of South Asia.

Ultra-nationalist, anti-India posturing

Once considered a protégé of India in Nepali politics, KP Sharma Oli proved himself a skilled Machiavellian when he managed to change his stance at a convenient time.

He suddenly projected himself as the saviour of national pride against India to gather the support of the elite sections of Nepal.

Finding him not in favour of an inclusive constitution, which could have addressed the aspirations of every sections of Nepal, and could have saved India from the fallout of any Madhesi unrest on its border, New Delhi was quite apprehensive when he was taking charge of the prime ministership.

Different sources also say, India pushed for the crowning of Sushil Koirala instead of him.

But making political opportunities out of different disasters and developments of Nepal, including the earthquake and the promulgation of the new constitution, Oli managed the prime ministership. With his accusation against India for economic blockage and Madhesi unrest, Oli’s tenure has witnessed a new low in India-Nepal relations.

With his newly acquired ultra-nationalist image, posturing to consolidate support from such constituencies of Nepal, he tried to replace India with China. He kept catering to a self-image of the “saviour of national pride”, who did not succumb to the so-called Indian pressure.

Traditionally, a new Nepali prime minister tours India as his first foreign visit, which Oli maintained, but only after several hiccups.

Later, in a sudden decision, he cancelled the visit of President Bhandari, when she was expected to make her first visit to India.

His acrimony towards India was quite glaringly evident when without taking names and while addressing the parliament on the no-confidence motion against his government, he termed it a conspiracy by "foreign elements" which turned the country into a "laboratory" and was obstructing the implementation of the new constitution.

Chinese bonhomie and aggressive meddling

Increased bonhomie with China at the cost of distancing India has been a characteristic of his tenure which manifested in terms of many signed deals, starting the procurement of petroleum and other goods from china, decision of the opening of new trade routes on Chinese borders and other measures.

Taking advantage of the situation developed in his tenure, China has increased its involvement in Nepal and is actively making efforts to replace India.

olichinabd_072516011441.jpg KP Sharma Oli (left) with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Surprisingly, Beijing has been seen meddling in Nepal’s internal politics, unlike any time before.

A Chinese delegation, in an unprecedented development, recently attempted political negotiations among Nepali leaders.

To give the momentum to this newfound bonhomie, Chinese president Xi Jinping has even fixed a tentative Nepal visit in October this year.

Such diplomatic affability upon the invitation of PM Oli and aggressive posturing of China should be enough for India to become concerned with respect to its regional security, especially when India shares a long free border with Nepal.

Madhesi agitation

Oli had taken charge when the Madhesi unrest against the new constitution was on the rise, resulting into a blocking of India-Nepal trade routes, causing a grave hardship in day-to-day life of the land-locked country, especially in its northern part.

The agitation lasted for nearly five months and was called off when some amendments in the constitution were moved in January, 2016.

However, the amendments made in Articles 42, 84 and 286 of the constitution could not address their demands substantively and proved to be a window dressing only.

Their basic demands of proportional representation in parliament on the basis and in ratio of population, proper delineation of boundaries of the provinces and proportional inclusion of marginalised communities along with others are yet to be addressed.

Having formed a front of 31 parties, called the Federal Alliance (FA), the Madhesis are agitating to bring about incorporation of these demands.

Maoists and ghosts of insurgency days

The coalition of Oli’s government was a unique combination of a far-right party like the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) with a far-left party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) of Prachanda, on board.

His government lost the majority when Parachanda took back the support followed by other parties like RPP. Prachanda charged the government of having failed to address the issues for which they had agreed to extend support in the first place.

Several criminal cases against the Maoists, with charges of human rights violations and allegations of brutalities during the insurgency, including against chairman Prachanda, have been long filed and are currently pending before the courts.

Prachanda has been pleading that the means adopted during revolutionary changes cannot be subject of a common criminal court and any such trial, must be dealt by forming a truth and conciliation commission instead.

It is believed that Prachanda was supporting the Oli government because of a covert deal, according to which the government was supposed to make arrangement for a truth and reconciliation committee and not let the Maoists stand trial.

Oli did not fulfil his side of the bargain and cleverly kept the sword of such criminal proceedings hanging over Prachanda, because of which the Maoist leader called off his support eventually.

Now at a time when Prachanda is expected to become the new prime minister, with such a legacy of violence, he will surely find himself in a tough situation.

However, as a silver lining, India could be looking at him to normalise the soured relations between the two countries.

Writer

Satyadeep Kumar Singh Satyadeep Kumar Singh @satydeep2002

ICSSR Doctoral Fellow, National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.