In what may be seen as a step toward consolidation of communist forces, two major Left parties of Nepal – the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) or CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) – signed a seven-point agreement on party unification on February 21. With the two parties planning to merge, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli made his intention clear, saying that Nepal would strengthen ties with China. Oli believes that the friendship with China will help Nepal put India under pressure and get more benefits from its southern neighbour.
In Kathmandu, senior CPN-UML leader Oli has said that his country will try to balance its ties with China and India. The PM stressed on the cordial relationships between Nepal and India, saying: “We have great connectivity with India and an open border. All that’s fine and we’ll increase connectivity even further, but we can’t forget that we have two neighbours. We don’t want to depend on one country or have one option.”
PM Oli hinted that his government would make some changes in Kathmandu’s policies toward New Delhi. “We’ve always had excellent relations with India. There were some elements in the Indian establishment that caused some misunderstanding, but Indian leaders have assured us that there will be no interference in the future and we will respect each other’s sovereign rights,” he stressed.
As far as the long-established practice of the Nepalese soldiers serving the Indian armed forces is concerned, the PM said that Kathmandu would review some provisions in near future. “This should be internally and mutually discussed and corrected, if necessary. We live in a new world and Nepal is starting a new journey, we have to update whatever is considered outdated and bring it in line with the modern era,” he told the press.
PM Oli – widely regarded as pro-China – has a different plan for the northern neighbour. He openly admitted that Nepal would have to depend on China for infrastructure development, roads and railway connectivity. In his words: “Once China brings its rail network up to Shigatse and then Kyirong in Tibet, it should be easy to extend it to Nepal. It’s lower altitude than Tibet, and the terrain is actually sloping all the way down from Kyirong.” Oli further said: “Apart from that, three roads are under construction connecting China and Nepal, which should be ready in a couple of years. If we can connect this railway network to our east-west rail project, it can revolutionise China-India trade, with Nepal in the middle.” The PM insisted that his government would revive the China-backed USD 2.5 billion hydropower project that was scrapped by the previous government.
Oli’s love for China is nothing new. He previously served as the prime minister from October 11, 2015 to August 3, 2016. In those 10 months, he strengthened ties with Beijing. In December 2017, the two Left parties won 174 of the 275 parliamentary seats and formed the government. And China encouraged the two parties to merge. The merger has made Oli a ‘strong’ PM, who is now looking at China for the Himalayan nation’s all round development.
Experts believe that the changing political landscape in its neighbourhood is all set to create trouble for India.
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