Regime change in Nepal
A sense of deja vu
In July 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held telephonic talks with his new Nepal counterpart, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and both the leaders have agreed to “work together” to enhance the bilateral cooperation in all areas. This was a courtesy episode but a crucial one.
People were not wrong to call the entire saga of regime change in the Himalayan nation – an old wine in an old bottle! Ideologies do not matter much in today’s world where the underlined emphasis is for political and diplomatic one-upmanship and to work for a better living for the common people.
Nepal has got a new Prime Minister in the form of 75-year- old Deuba. The irony is — even one and half months (as we go to press) after taking the oath of office on July 13, 2021, Deuba has not been able to expand his Cabinet, and he has been running the government with four ministers and one minister of state.
Deuba’s swearing in itself marred by delay due to a minor row with the presidential office ended K P Sharma Oli’s three- and-a-half-year-long turbulent stint in Nepal. The delay for cabinet expansion also has to do with politics. The Congress- Maoist alliance has made an offer to leaders of a rival faction to join the government.
Several controversies and a few ‘anti-India’ stances were perhaps the only major highlights of the outgoing Oli’s stint. India has tried to remain politically neutral especially after the dissolution of parliament in May.For a long time, New Delhi faced the charge of playing ‘elder brother’ and interfering in Nepal’s internal matters.
The charge used to be denied, nevertheless. In October 2020, the chief of R&AW, Samant Kumar Goel, Indian army chief Gen M M Naravane and Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla visited Nepal to address various issues. All three had laid emphasis on continuing the mutual cooperation.
Now taking the clock back, in circa 2010, Upendra Yadav, a former foreign minister of Nepal, had once told this scribe in Kathmandu that the issue of ‘India’s interference’ in the Himalayan nation was at least “Ardha Satya” if not the entire truth. India has also faced similar charges vis-a-vis other neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh though to a lesser extent. But apparently now the Modi Government wanted to tread the path carefully and wanted to give a clear message that it does not interfere in internal matters of neighbouring countries. “Last few months, India has consciously emphasised – let’s step back and let the system and people of Nepal and Myanmar or for that matter Sri Lanka figure out what they want to do with their political future,” one person in the know of things had confided. This implies the fresh argument — that ultimately it is “Nepal’s constitution” and thus India should stay away and allow and see how things unfold. Now that the Supreme Court of Nepal overturned the presidential order and a new dispensation under veteran Deuba is in power, there are certain issues which could require closer scrutiny.