Nepal’s new leader expected to delicately balance Chinese and Indian influence

By Zhang Shubin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/19 21:28:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

On May 24, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre), resigned as prime minister. Following an agreement reached earlier with Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prachanda handed over his leadership to Deuba after nine months in office.

Sandwiched between China and India, Nepal has been termed as "a yam between two rocks" by King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Although Nepal has signed a memorandum of understanding with China to become part of the Belt and Road initiative, whether it can play its geographical advantages and become a dynamic bridge connecting China and India as well as other South Asian countries depends on its domestic situation.

The King warned his successors to maintain a balance between China and India in order to achieve the most benefits for Nepal. This balancing act has become an eternal subject for all of Nepal's leaderships.

Since Nepal adopted its new constitution in September 2015, it has had three prime ministers respectively from the three major political parties: Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) Chairman Khadga Prasad Oli, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) Chairman Prachanda and Nepali Congress President Deuba. None of their tenures exceeded or will exceed one year.

When in office, Oli turned to China for support due to a blockade from India. India, with its negative attitude toward Oli, supported Prachanda as prime minister to break up the coalition between the Unified Marxist-Leninist and Maoist-Centre parties, forcing Oli to resign.

Since his second term, Prachanda has adopted pro-India policies, putting the cooperation agreement signed by Oli and China on ice. Deuba is holding power, and it is worth noting whether he can maintain a balance between China and India and seek benefits for the Nepalese people.

The relationship between the Nepali Congress and India has always been smooth. Deuba, with his rich political experience, can be more effective in dealing with Nepal's relations with China and India than his predecessors.

On May 12, Nepal formally signed the memorandum of understanding on China's Belt and Road initiative. Two days later, Nepal successfully held its first round of local elections. All these make Nepal look forward to its cooperation with China under the framework of the initiative.

The common aspirations of the people in Nepal are to achieve political stability as soon as possible, to benefit from the rapid development of China and India, and to get rid of poverty.

China has the willingness, technical strength and financial strength to help Nepal carry out post-earthquake reconstruction, infrastructure construction, and water resources development. India should support Nepal's cooperation with China and efforts to achieve an economic take-off through the Belt and Road initiative.

Recent Sino-Indian relations are at a low ebb. India refused to attend the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation due to its concerns over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India also harbors a grudge against China for its failure to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. In addition, India is unsatisfied with China blocking its bid at the UN to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammad leader, Maulana Masood Azhar.

India allowed the Dalai Lama and former US ambassador to India Richard Verma to visit South Tibet, which harmed China's interests. Nevertheless, China does not oppose India's inclusion into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

China, Nepal and India should strengthen cooperation, abandon zero-sum thinking, and seek win-win situations. It is believed that the Deuba administration has the ability to deal with China and India, and work toward the well-being of the Nepalese people. It is expected that Nepal, under the leadership of Deuba, will realize a democratic transition to lay a good foundation for long-term and stable development.

The author is a research fellow with The Chahar Institute and director of Nepal Study Center at Hebei University of Economics & Business.


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