Geopolitics, a constant, while leaders change
Staff Writer, KATHMANDU: With Prime Minister K P Oli flying to Uttaranchal to have a dekko at the Tehri Dam project, the underlying message is one can expect something as big as that project in Nepal and at the same time give India a big reason to tell Nepal to keep away from China.
That brings in Pancheswore project in the picture and something which had made it into the press statement issued at the joint press conference involving Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and PM Oli on the second day of the visit Saturday.
The significance of sending PM Oli to Tehri lies in the fact that Pancheswore too is located in equally hilly terrain like Tehri which had seen widespread protests by environmentalists when the project was launched. One is not sure however whether the Chinese side has ever told Nepal to keep India away from Pancheswore.
Modi, who has demonstrated his love for big projects in India including over 100 smart cities in India has send initial indication that he is working to a plan whereby geopolitics and development will go side by side. Whether he really means or just wants to sit on the project will be clear in near future.
The fact that Modi will be chasing the megaproject also becomes evident from the fact that India has to fight China from spreading its influence by retaining its presence in Nepal in really a big way.
Pancheswore could be Indian reply to Chinese plan to build Trans-Himalayan rail passing underneath Mount Everest and number of similarly big projects like China Town planned in Kathmandu and suitable rail system for Kathmandu Valley.
What must not be forgotten is Indian interference in Nepal is for two reasons and include long term need to contain spread of communism and Indian official policy of beefing up the interest of people of Indian origin in tarai, which has send the Madhesh pot boiling since sometime.
Such being the state of affairs, the Indian side is racing against time to maintain a high profile presence in Nepal and Madhesh issue came handy at a time when pressure on India is rising to fight China.
Surprisingly Koshi high dam which is much more ambitious than Pancheswore did not figure in the talks this time around although it is of much more importance to India. Modi has gone around speaking about supplying water all year round In Bihar while also controlling massive flooding and inundation also in Bihar following his first Nepal visit in which he talked about the project.
One thing is for sure: Madhesh will remain always on boil, at least until, rivalry between China and India does not settle. In fact it is likely to be used as bargaining chip with Nepal. Consider for a moment that the agitation in south was called off soon after Oli visit to Delhi was announced.
The visit can’t have been taken place without Nepalese side reassuring India that its interest in every sphere of activity will be respected. PM Oli who was in favor of upgrading ties with China perhaps did a rethink largely because that would take worsening relations with India to a new level, which he thought is best avoid for the time being.
Next few months will tell what Modi has up his sleeve and how feverishly the tarai pot goes on boil or whether Oli pays visit to China by gathering enough courage or whether Oli government lasts longerat all given Indian leverage into Nepalese politics. Looking from here, the impression is Modi is mixing geopolitics and Oli giving him a chance in much the same way his predecessors did before him.
:: Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday.