Ironically, Mr. Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli is a classic example of a friend turned foe of India. Before the year 2015, in Nepal, the general impression was that Mr. Oli is the only politician who worked tirelessly to bridge India’s friendly relations with Nepal. In fact, in 1996, to support India in the ‘India and Nepal Mahakali River’ water sharing agreement, Mr. Oli was the only politician who quit from the Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist, to support India. In fact, subsequently when he was the Home Minister of Nepal, Mr. Oli would often support Indian intelligence agencies operating in Nepal to help them nab criminals and terrorists, which was fast becoming a base of major ISI and Chinese anti India activities.
The things changed after the year 2015 when Nepal announced their new Constitution and India felt that it was weak on assurances for the Madhesi population. This was something that Mr. Oli, the key architect of the Nepali Constitution, did not appreciate. Just after the promulgation of the new Constitution, when Mr. Oli was about to take power as the PM, Indian intelligence agencies tried to undercut his authority, by propping up Sushil Koirala of the Nepali Congress.
However, the election of Koirala, supported covertly by India, could not succeed and Mr. Oli eventually took power and reins of Nepal. This led India to create an economic blockade on Nepal, something for which India received a lot of flak from the local populace and anti – India feeling was peak in 2016. At this juncture in March 2016, Chinese stepped in to assist Mr. Oli and China and Nepal signed an eight point Transit and Transport Facilitation Agreement. With support of R&AW, in July 2016, Prachanda (himself a former PM) pulled out support from the government of Mr. Oli, making him run a minority government. In December 2017, when elections finally happened in Nepal, Mr. Oli bounced back with the support of Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), (Chinese intelligence agency) with 2/3rd majority.
The Chinese MSS and Mr. Oli ran a successful anti – India campaign all across Nepal that worked well for him in his elections. After acquiring power, the MSS stationed their officials in the Office of the Prime Minister of Nepal and began to guide him to subdue the opposition. Within a short span of time the Madhesi activists were jailed and opposition was subdued completely, a typical Chinese tactic at work.
The shrill of Mr. Oli grew in November 2019, when India published their map. Mr. Oli used this to display his nationalist plank. This is so because Mr. Oli did not have something which Prachanda and Nepali Congress had. While Prachanda is credited with bringing down the monarchy in Nepal, the Nepali Congress has credit of bringing democracy to Nepal. This is Mr. Oli’s moment of nationalism now. In its reaction, after Nepal’s lower house of parliament approved the bill, India termed as untenable the “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims by the neighbouring country.
India said Nepal’s action violates an understanding reached between the two countries to resolve the boundary issues through talks. Prime Minister Oli has been asserting that Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura belong to his country and vowed to “reclaim” them from India.
The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory – India as part of its Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district.
The world politics is shifting to the Indo – Pacific, with most flashpoints being in and around China. China’s political ambitions are making it more dependent on neighbouring nations for strategic and transit needs. Nepal is no exception. India has become more important for regional and global players. No nation can change its geography and cultural unity with its neighbourhood. Nepal and India are old friends but in new situations. We need to sit down together to ensure that people from two countries shall enjoy good ties in the times to need and honour.
Chari, a political and strategic affairs expert, said the border disputes that one sees today in South Asia are a colonial hangover and a legacy that the British left behind when they quit India. “The lines drawn in a closed room 100 years back are impacting us so much even today. Why have we been carrying the past on our heads so much?” He said at a time when India and China were at loggerheads at the border, the timing of the Nepali moves on its border with India was a matter of security for India. Chari urged Nepali political leaders to keep in mind India’s national security considerations with regard to China, with which both India and Nepal did not have a common border in 1947.
In the meanwhile, Narwane met the PM at his official residence. In the meeting, the two discussed bilateral relations. Narwane reached Nepal on a three-day tour. During this time he also flew on the mountains and also stopped at Sayangbosh Airport for a while. From here, Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, is reached.
As the formal tradition is: Honour is accorded to Chief of Indian army and General Narwane was no exception. India also honours the army chief of Nepal. General Naravane was awarded the rank of General of the Nepali Army. President Excellency Bidya Devi Bhandari honoured Narwane at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Nepal released the new map of its country, showing the disputed areas on its part. In fact, the Mansarovar link, made in India’s script, was inaugurated by Rajnath Singh, the Defense Minister of India, who visited Nepal.
The relations are right now in delicate stage and India had warned Nepal that their some area has been encroached by China, with the help of ‘Lekhpals’ of the region. India always values its strong relations with Nepal.
As a countermeasure, India too has proposed six railway lines to Nepal till date, of which two projects are showing progress. India has been ignoring the controversies being raised by the Nepali leadership and highlighting that it has continued to provide trade links to Nepal during the pandemic, as big brother. India has ensured that 100 per cent fuel supplies from India to Nepal were not affected. Also medical assistance in the form of medicines and equipment were provided to our Himalayan neighbour on regular basis. On August 9th 2020, the always helpful Indian army gifted 10 intensive care unit ventilators to the Nepali army in order to support its efforts to fight against the pandemic.
It is time for a revisit of the 1950 bilateral treaty between India and Nepal and recommended that if both the countries think that if they need to totally revamp it or have a new one, then it should be doable.