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Nepal-India ties: Why PM KP Oli continues to dare New Delhi

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

Since KP Oli was sworn in as the Prime Minister, Kathmandu has been consistent with it's policy of open confrontation with India. In the latest move, after Oli managed to save his government after a last minute deal with Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', he recalled Deep Kumar Upadhyay, it's ambassador to New Delhi, alleging that he was acting against the government in Kathmandu.

Upadhyay was apparently upset the Himalayan State, in a sudden decision, told New Delhi that the visit of its President, Bidhya Devi Bhandari, has been postponed. The former ambassador was upset at how the government had postponed the visit even when it was on Nepal's insistence that the invitation was extended to her and that the ambassador had been busy fixing the details of the visit, the meetings and so on. He had advised against the decision. Reports attributed to sources in the Nepalese foreign ministry say that one of the reasons cited for recalling Upadhyay, was his visit, to the restive Madhes region with the Indian ambassador to Nepal.

Upadhyay is a veteran leader of the opposition Nepali Congress and has served as a minister. He was appointed last year by the Sushil Koirala-led government which was supported by the communists.

President Bhandari was scheduled to be in India on 9 May. While officially it was told that the visit was being cancelled because of unpreparedness, Nepal watchers say Oli wanted to openly snub India. He has already been claiming that India was trying to topple his government.

KP Oli has been insinuating that India is trying to topple his government

Oli is also insinuating an Indian hand, after the recent visits to India of Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who is close to Prachanda.

"There is no love lost between both the governments," says Professor SD Muni. "New Delhi is clearly very upset," he points out.

"I am very surprised by how Nepalese government is not being very careful about their relationship with India," says Kanwal Sibal, the former foreign secretary.

"Nepal always sees an Indian hand even when there is none," says Kanwal Sibal, the former foreign secretary. He says the neighbouring country is creating an atmosphere of hostility by first asking the President to not come to India and then sacking the ambassador because he said that the decision is not right.

Sibal points out how even if the Nepalese government had problems, they should not have postponed such a high level visit. Instead, they could have aired their grievances through another channel. Calling the decision as immature, he says even the President could have delivered the message, only if she was allowed to visit.

The deal

Earlier, Oli, in a last minute deal with Prachanda, managed to save his government. Prachanda had tried to strike a deal with the Nepali Congress, but the attempt did not succeed after he did not find enough support. Reports suggest that even members of the Maoist party who are part of Oli's government were against the move to oust him.

Civil war cases against the Maoists is one of the major issues which was a reason why Prachanda was trying to reach out to Nepali Congress, which is wary of the way the Oli-led UML government is trying to overtake institutions.

However, once Oli was told of the proposal, he readily agreed to Prachanda's demand including one on the cases in courts. He also agreed to pass the mantle to him once the Budget session gets over.

Five of the nine points in the agreement are about the cases and time bound actions. Something which has been criticised by a section in Nepal including some Human Rights groups, the deal has points like a "process to withdraw some of the wartime and other political cases and grant amnesty will be initiated at the earliest". There are also proposals to amend the existing legal provisions and of providing compensation and reparation to the victims.

We have seen a series of knee-jerk reactions from India. Even Madhesis aren't happy: Prof. SD Muni

Meanwhile, after the deal, India has limited options. The Madhesi parties are warming up to another round of agitation after they are not happy with Oli's stance on their demands. India has been pressing for the resolution of the issue.

Experts like Professor Muni, however, say that they are unsure of what India really wants in Nepal. "We have seen a series of ad-hoc, knee-jerk reactions," Muni says while pointing out several instances like India's stand on the Constitution in Nepal, the decision to send Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar during the Madhesi agitation, and facilitating the trade blockade. "Even the Madhesis are not happy with India. Some of them think they have been left in the lurch," Muni says.

First published: 7 May 2016, 9:24 IST