Unrest in Nepal

THE political crisis in Nepal, triggered by the sudden dissolution of Parliament by the President on the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, has elicited contrasting responses from its neighbours India and China. While India has described the developments as the Himalayan nation’s ‘internal matter’, China has been quick to make an intervention. Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi has already met President Bidya Devi Bhandari and the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s (NCP) executive chairman PK Dahal, better known as Prachanda. The power tussle within the NCP has intensified this week, with Prachanda removing Oli from the posts of the party’s parliamentary leader and chairman. The Oli faction, in turn, has ousted Prachanda from the executive chairman’s seat.

Political and economic stability in Nepal matter a lot to China as it has invested billions of dollars under its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which includes the Trans-Himalayan Multidimensional Connectivity Network — an economic corridor that consists of several major infrastructure projects. Moreover, in 2018, China had apparently played a role in the merger of Nepal’s two communist parties which were then led by Oli and Prachanda. Regarded as a pro-China leader, Oli had riled India earlier this year by redrawing the country’s political map, laying claim to the Indian territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani. The brazen move had impacted relations between New Delhi and Kathmandu at a time when tensions were running high at the India-China border.

The current turmoil comes amid India’s efforts to restore friendly ties with Nepal through recent visits to that country by Army Chief Gen MM Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Though India is not keen to meddle in Nepal’s affairs, it can’t afford to let a scheming China undo all the confidence-building measures. New Delhi should keep a close watch on Beijing’s moves and at the same time assure Nepal of its unstinting support, no matter which way the wind blows.

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