Since September 2015, bilateral relations have reached a new low. Prime Minister Deuba tries to correct the ultra-nationalist vision of his predecessor, Prime Minister Oli
Amid the gloom and pessimism of Indo-Nepalese relations over the past five years, the two countries appear to be heading towards a reset of bilateral relations. Since taking office in July 2021, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, along with members of his cabinet, have been working to reach out to Indian leaders and resume talks in several sectors, including rail trade, hydropower, culture and COVID-19. . In return, India also welcomed the Nepalese rapprochement.
Among immediate efforts to resume talks, India has secured the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to Nepal as it prepares to lift the vaccine export ban. In terms of political exchanges, a special delegation from the ruling Nepalese Congress Party arrived in New Delhi on October 8th. The delegation met Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and BJP President JP Nadda. The delegation’s visit comes in the context of the visit of Vijay Chauthaiwale, who heads the foreign affairs department of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to Kathmandu in August this year.
Chauthaiwale’s visit to Nepal was part of the ruling BJP’s various efforts to improve ties with India’s neighborhood, including Nepal. In the 2014 and 2019 election manifestos, the BJP categorically mentioned “Neighborhood First” as India’s foreign policy vehicle to improve relations with its neighbors. As government-to-government interactions continue, the BJP has been a strong advocate for party-level interactions to reach out to India’s neighbors to promote cooperation, cohesion, democracy and human rights. ‘man.
The backdrop: Since September 2015, bilateral relations between India and Nepal have reached a new low due to an ultra-nationalist perspective displayed by former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli regarding the Constitution and the border dispute with India. These issues had become the only issues of importance to KP Oli as they served his political agenda. Despite looming political instability and an immediate emergency challenge from COVID-19, Oli ensured that the age-old ‘little state’ card was used against India. Traditionally, India and Nepal have resolved their misunderstandings through well-established bilateral diplomatic channels at the level of the Foreign Minister, but Oli was least interested in the use of confidence-building measures. As of 2015, Oli has spared no effort to create an anti-India narrative and sponsor anti-Indian social media toolkits like #BackOffIndia and #GoBackIndia.
Claim against Chinese encroachment: Oli had willfully ignored reports of Chinese border encroachment on Nepalese territories in 2020. While the Nepalese Foreign Ministry was slow to respond to India’s calls for border talks , Oli was too quick to refute the claims against China. Nepalese media had addressed the issue of China’s border encroachment after the Chinese side allegedly constructed 11 buildings in a remote part of Humla district which Nepal claims as its own territory.
Against this, the Nepalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “the Surveying Department of the Government of Nepal, on the basis of official records, reports of the joint field inspection and border maps, has verified and confirmed that the said buildings are not located on Nepalese territory ”. However, the current administration has taken the matter seriously. On September 1, 2021, Nepal’s Interior Minister Bal Krishna Khand formed a committee to study the border issue with China. The committee included the Deputy Director General of the Investigation Department, the Principal Superintendent of the Nepalese Police, the SSP of the Nepalese Armed Forces and the Joint Director of the National Investigation Department. The commission submitted its report within 25 days, on September 26, despite geographic difficulties in the border region.
According to the committee’s recommendations, “it has been found that the Chinese side has installed wires and fences on Nepalese territory.” In addition, “the Chinese side was also trying to build a permanent canal 145 meters inside Nepalese territory. As a result, he wanted to build a road. After objections from the Nepalese armed police, the structures were destroyed and the covered rubble was visible. It should be noted that the 1963 border protocol identifies the area of pillar number 5 (2) in the middle of Kit Khola as the international border between Nepal and China. China is said to have fenced off the area.
Therefore, these encroachments by China violate the agreement. It shows that KP Oli had made compromises in matters of national security to fulfill his political mandate. The Nepalese Interior Ministry intends to deal with the case with China through diplomatic channels. In the midst of this, China’s unease with the change of government in Nepal was wide open. A few days after Prime Minister Deuba’s appointment, Chinese state media called him a “pro-Indian” leader.
Conclusion: Of course, Sher Bahadur Deuba has a short term as Prime Minister, but these small steps in reshaping Nepal’s foreign policy priorities will help fill the void left by KP Oli. On the other hand, although Nepal took the issue of enthroning the Chinese border very late, it is better late than never. The current administration must ensure that China respects Nepal’s sovereignty and freedom by not allowing Nepal to micromanage Nepal’s political affairs.
(The author is a research assistant at the Vivekananda International Foundation. The opinions expressed are personal.)