BY M. R. JOSSE
TAMPA, FL: Despite several comment-worthy developments here in the U.S. of A, this week’s column will focus on the goings-on back home hinging on UML chief K.P. Sharma Oli’s installation as Nepal’s chief executive two months after the Left Alliance’s magnificent electoral triumph in the first general elections under the new constitutional dispensation.
The aforementioned political grouping linked the UML and the Maoist forces that decimated the Nepali Congress (NC) and its so-called ‘democratic allies’ that had been brazenly and recklessly backed by New Delhi.
First, let me present an overview of what the general situation – in Nepal specifically and in the region more generally – appears to be, viewed from Florida.
Now that the uncertain suspense of whether Oli would be able to secure a majority government sans the support of the Maoists – or whether he would have to join hands with Upendra Yadav and others – is over, there should ostensibly be a stable government for five years.
According to some political sages, we are well on the way to unfettered peace and prosperity. After all, now that the much-discussed ideological schisms between the two Communist parties have supposedly been ironed out, the Left alliance’s brute numerical strength in parliament should ensure that its political, economic, social and foreign policy agenda will be successfully implemented.
To get a fuller picture of the situation, however, it is necessary, to take due cognizance of reports of escalating tensions within the NC, between the former prime minister and party president Sher Bahadur Deuba and a cohort of Young Turks, naturally miffed over former’s claim to leadership of the parliamentary party – without so much as the Central Committee’s nod.
Having led his party – once hailed as the face of Nepali democracy – to a humiliating rout, in no small measure because of his juvenile, anti-Commie scare tactics and his openly cozying up to the very same India that imposed a five-month plus blockade against Nepal, this ‘revolt’ is hardly astonishing.
The moot point is: will Deuba simply walk away into the political sunset or will be hang on, lemming-like, and thereby create open fissures and splits in the party, thus contributing to the party’s political demise or irrelevancy? Only time will tell.
GEOPOLITICS IS KING
In the interregnum, however, it is entirely legitimate to ponder how India will react. Of course, I am not referring to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj may say in emollient diplomatic public statements. That we already know.
What no one is really aware of, I submit, are India’s real intentions vis-à-vis Nepal, bearing in mind (a) India’s support of the ‘democratic option’ in the election; (b) its unmitigated hostility towards Oli for having successfully defied her during his first prime ministerial innings; (c) her claims to supremacy over South Asia; and (d) her ardent desire to match China’s exponentially expanding global clout, preferably by acting in a four-sided grouping including Japan, Australia and the United States, designed to ‘contain’ China.
While India’s nervousness about the new political order in Nepal was amply manifest in the dramatics over the Swaraj visit – combined, possibly, with private warning to Oli not to trample upon India’s infamous ‘security concerns’ – in the near term, New Delhi must decide whether to allow the new government to govern as it chooses, including in hewing a nationalistic foreign policy line that might be perceived in India as ‘pro-China.’
It will have to make up its mind whether to attempt to sow dissension between the Oli and Prachanda camps, based on the premise, as reflected in a recent Pioneer editorial, that the UML is “pro-China” while the Maoists are “better disposed towards India.”
Similarly, with regard to the NC, the wheelers and dealers in New Delhi will have to decide whom they will support to underwrite their blueprint: a badly exposed and wounded Deuba or a younger NC politico with demonstrable charisma – and attested loyalty – even if he/she is not a member of the Koirala clan.
Media reports indicate that with the inauguration of the spanking new Oli-headed government there is likely to be a speeding up of the finalization of the China-Nepal rail link – anathema to India. Such reports, with possibly others from India’s Beijing mission, will naturally have been noted by Indian strategists and military planners. Will it be allowed to go through without any attempts – overt or covert – to subvert it? Here, one can only speculate.
Before proceeding to my final talking point – that of the rising popularity of the ousted monarchy – let me draw this column’s attention to a few revealing geopolitical nuggets of relevance to our discussion.
Ulson Gunnar in Global Research, in a lengthy piece on the subject, describes as merely “nascent” the oft-mentioned and usually hyped “alliance” between the U.S.- Japan, India, and Australia that is “openly arrayed against China.”
Equally noteworthy is former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran’s article (Times of India) centred on China’s increasing footprints in the Maldives, wherein Saran, a former Indian ambassador to Nepal, reveals that the Quadrilateral concept is a “revived” idea that is still “somewhat hesitant.” Significantly, Saran, a China expert, frankly admits that India suffers from a “power gap” vis-à-vis China.
Meanwhile, in the Hindu, M.K. Narayanan, a former Indian National Security Advisor, suggests that India’s foreign/security policy should concentrate on its immediate neighbourhood fashioning, among other policy priorities, a response “on how to deal with the new government in Nepal.”
To the submerged uncertainties and the geopolitical competition between India and China must be added those underlining the growing and visible resurgence of the monarchy’s appeal in Nepal and an India, governed – let us never forget – by the BJP, committed to the resurgence of Hindu values.
The Monarchy is presently merely a wild card. Will it remains so, even as the geopolitical scramble intensifies?