by Brig Arun Bajpai

Lo and behold, the first foreign visitor to Nepal after KP Oli became the prime Minster of Nepal was Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Prime Minster of Pakistan whom Oli received on 5 March this year. Agreed that Nepal and Pakistan are both SAARC countries but what is common between them beyond that for Abbassi Saheb to visit Nepal except China? With its economy in doldrums and itself neck deep in debt, in what way Pakistan can help Nepal? The only common thread between them is that one is sworn enemy of India and other is trying to project itself as an independent foreign policy country, away from Indian influence, under Oli. So be it, but India now must reshape its Nepal policy and not fall in the trap of appeasing Nepal.

Tarai people of Nepal, also called Madhesis, are basically of Indian origin .When in 2015 Nepali Constituent Assembly adopted a Constitution not favouring Madhesis, despite Indian pressure on them to be even handed towards the rights of Madhesis, the stage was set for confrontation with India of hill people elite of Nepal. After the Nepali political elite did not listen to India, Madhesis imposed a blockade on the border, crippling essential supplies. This generated a backlash in Kathmandu and the hills. However Instead of maintaining its aim of assisting Madeshis in their rightful demands, India developed cold feet and lost out on all fronts. It annoyed all communities including Madhesis. Typical of Indian Babus blunders. KP Oli and his ilk saw in this a victory and since then have been trying to prove that they can follow a policy independent of India by cosying up to China.Ofcourse China is ever ready to oblige.

Oli sahebs romance with China started in 2016 when he visited China .There he signed three dozen pacts including Transit and Transport pact. China also made available to Oli 3 billion Yuan loan to Nepal for reconstruction. While Nepal’ total exports to China are 181 million dollars its import from China is growing by 39% annually. China is the second largest source of foreign tourists to Nepal. Nepal holds an observer status in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

What is somewhat a worrying factor is the fact that India and Nepal had appointed an Eminent Persons Group (EPG), consisting of four members each, to go into the gamut of all aspects of the 1950 Treaty between India and Nepal. It is now clear that Nepalis are going to recommend complete overhaul of this treaty. That is OK but what is bothersome is that Nepali members are insisting that there should be complete regulation of border between the two countries, as also documentation of entry and exit of each person.

It is time for India to understand and make up its mind on KP Olis game plan. Oli Saheb wants to play North vs. south game making India and China to be competitors to woo Nepal. India should make it clear to Nepal that it is not going to be competitor with China. If Nepal wants to sit on China's lap it is most welcome to do it. If Nepal thinks Pakistan will come rushing to its help so be it. India could not care less. If Nepal wants to regulate the borders then so be it. But then no Nepali will be allowed to work in India without work permit. Similarly India will disband all Nepali Gorkha regiments of Indian Army. We have sufficient Gorkhas of Indian origin ourselves. Finally India should also make it clear to Nepal that Madhesis are of Indian origin Tarai people and we will not abandon them come what may. India will give no loans Nepal on subsidised rates. Every deal will be on a government to government basis.

Brig Arun Bajpai (Retd) is a distinguished Defence and Strategic Analyst. Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IDN. IDN does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same