Purushottam Dhakal, LOS ANGELES: The re-election of Narendra Damodardas Modi as the Prime Minister of India could mark the beginning of several things on the foreign policy front vis-a-vis the immediate neighbors, including Nepal that go on to reshape the foreign policy in ways it restores Indian stranglehold on each.
More so on Pakistan of course in which case it will be a higher league ball game watched on favorably by global players like US and leading European nations like France and Germany, among others. Modi is a global player already and will be accelerating his foreign policy engine.
Meanwhile attention of the foreign policy onlookers in Kathmandu will be on how Modi, who has once failed to gauge Indian strength in teaching a lesson to Nepal by imposing an embargo soon after he took over after 2014, goes on to deal with Nepal.
More so in the light of how China has won over Nepal after how the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was rolled out and how Nepal has chalked up its immediate policy of going with China rather than clung to India which has not been sincere friend. Many in Kathmandu believe “with friend like India, Nepal does not need an enemy.”
Yet Nepal is one of such countries in South Asia including also Bhutan which cannot forego continued friendship with India whatever they are dished out given the huge dependence on giant India for the lack of basic industrial development and source of livelihood given how rural Nepalese workforce depends on India.
Given the scenario there is very little the Nepalese side can do to have India behave favorably towards Kathmandu. The need to have India behave favorably has often led to anti-Indian rhetoric and demonstrations in the past.
So much so that incumbent Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli got a thumping majority during the last election on the plank of anti-Indian rhetoric and pro-China tilt. He cashed the fallout of the Indian embargo on Nepal and returned with unassailable majority in the parliament. This simply means that imposing punishment on Nepalese political system has led to anti-Indian vote. This turned Nepal into a China ally also.
This is incidentally is where Nepal-India relations stand, with Nepal backing Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and looking forward to build transport infrastructure in cooperation and with the help coming from the northern neighbor. India has shooed away smaller nations in South Asia away from China but not Nepal. Nepal under Oli is vocal supporter of China and challenge to Modi.
This means next few weeks will see this scenario firming up with either India striking a more positive chord with Oli government and thus give impetus of Indian assisted projects in Nepal or come up with something out of the box in the relationship between the two countries.
There is a section that says India must speed up the cooperation between the countries and give a feeling that India too is a development partner or come up with different approach which no one knows what it would be. Given the way Modi is going about, it can be expected that he may take the positive way out and give speed to development projects in Nepal.
(File Photo: On June 20, 2018, Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs China.)
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