Nepal's Relations With India Unaffected by its Ties With China: PM KP Sharma Oli on Betrayal, Diplomacy

Nepal’s CPN (Maoist Centre) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on Sunday asked its ministers in Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s government to resign en masse for breaching party discipline, amid their reluctance to quit the Cabinet. This is the second time the splinter faction of the Nepal Communist Party has instructed its ministers in the Oli government to resign from their posts. Nepal’s Election Commission on Tuesday asked the CPN (UML) led by Oli and the CPN (Maoist Center) led by Prachanda to come up with a new name and election symbol of the party if they decide to merge their parties again after the Supreme Court quashed the 2018 unification of the two parties. The CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist Centre) merged in May 2018 to form a unified Nepal Communist Party following the victory of their alliance in the 2017 general elections. PM K P Sharma Oli speaks on the current political situation, regional diplomacy and Nepal’s relations with India in an exclusive interview to CNN-News18. Here are the excerpts:

Q. How would you describe the current political situation in your country, given that it seems like the two main parties that are part of the government don’t seem to be facing eye to eye?

Given the political situation and what it is heading towards, I recommended the dissolution of Parliament and declaration for new elections. The Supreme Court gave a different verdict and restored the House of representatives. The situation came back and now Parliament is reinstated. The major political party got split into two because of the court’s verdict. The situation is something different and complicated. There are problems within the party, but even then we have a democratic system and within the constitution, we will decide how to move ahead.

Q. What do you feel about the SC decision that you referred to in your answer, the SC reversing your recommendation to dissolve the House of representative? Do you feel your legal team was not able to convince the court about the rationale for your decision?

Now that the SC has decided to do something else instead of accepting my recommendation to dissolve the House of Representatives, I have to agree that my side was not able to convince the court to give a verdict in my favour. All has happened under the judicial system and the constitution, so I can not say much about it. The House of representatives will now decide according to political forces present within.

Q. How do you foresee the immediate political future of your party because many observers say that the differences between the two parties, the UML party and Maoist Centre, have become too grave and perhaps even irreconcilable. What is your assessment?

The situation goes back to two years before I got the support from Maoist Centre. At that time, when the two parties came back together in their own form then I had the support of the Maoist Centre but if I take their support again then the situation will be different. In my opinion, my government will continue and an election will take place again.

Q. Do you feel that you were betrayed by some members of your own party and certainly by the members of your own coalition?

Of course. In the past, particularly last year, the political scenario was very unhealthy because of internal conflict. Even at my party, there were problems. There were undisciplined anarchist activities, the consequence of which is the present situation.

Q. Lets talk about some regional diplomacy question. Here in India, there is a perception that your government is too close to China, particularly when it comes to infrastructure, rail and many such projects which China is building in Nepal. Could you clarify this to reassure India that its ties with Nepal under your leadership is just as they used to be before?

There shouldn’t be any doubt or confusion about the friendly relationship between India and Nepal. Coming to China, we have very good relations with both our neighbours. Both neighbours are equally close to us. Talking about investment from China, both India and China have investments in Nepal. We welcome investments from other countries, also from our immediate neighbours.

Q. How would you describe the current state of the relationship between Kathmandu and New Delhi especially in the context of the coronavirus, lockdown and now what many are saying vaccine diplomacy. India has sent some patches of vaccines to your country as well. How would you describe the current state of the India-Nepal bilateral relationship?

I don’t think the vaccine sent from India is a matter of diplomacy. India, as a friendly neighbour, donated 1 million vaccine doses to us. We also got the second round of vaccine from India. Its a matter of friendship. It’s a great support to us. We thank the Indian govt and the people of India. The friendly relations that appeared during the fight against COVID-19 is encouraging and exemplary for others as to how two neighbours can work together against the pandemic.

Q. How do you think the world and particularly bilateral relations between the country and particularly in South Asia have changed as a result of COVID. What role does South Asia have to play in it?

COVID-19 has impacted the world physically and economically. It has taught the world that we have to work together and if the situation deteriorates then we have to come together and support each other. Though COVID is harmful it taught us that bilateral and trilateral relations and global relations between the society are in a better position and we have to develop it stronger.

Q. Returning to the topic of Chinese investments, many countries have been beneficiaries of that. In South Asia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and many other countries are now realising that some of this debt became unsustainable. In long term, particularly Sri Lanka has begun to realise that. Are you worried about the debt financing of some of the big-ticket projects that the Chinese are investing in Nepal?

I don’t think that. We want investment from outside in different forms in the forms of donation, in form of loans. Our resources are not enough and we need to work with our development partners internationally. The investment from China is not in an alarming state. We want to invite other countries for investment and donations in order to improve job opportunities and increase production. There is no situation like a debt trap in Nepal.

Q. Your country was previously the chairman of SAARC. We have not have had a SAARC summit for a number of years now. Do you foresee a summit happening in 2021 as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic? DO you see Pakistan being able to host a summit and how do you view the South Asia progress for all of these countries?

SAARC was established at a time when we thought that it will be a regional organisation that will be instrumental in the exchange of ideas and opinion opportunities, and also will defeat common challenges. We cannot express our satisfaction yet but the conclusion of SAARC was positive. The members of the SAARC countries are misunderstanding that the organisation is not that effective….we have been unable to hold a summit in the last 3-4 years. I am hopeful. We have to organise a summit and we want to give this responsibility to others.

Q. Coming back to an issue that has cropped up between Kathmandu and New Delhi over three points on the map. Is that chapter over? Have the differences been sorted?

Talks have started and we believe that on the basis of truth and dialogues we can resolve this.

Q. India and Nepal share a long history, perhaps one of the few countries with open and porous borders. How do you see the relation between the two people progressing as we come out of the corona-induced situation around the world?

We have many types of relationships, be it cultural, historical…there are so many dimensions and optics of our relationship. During the pandemic, our friendly ties got stronger, closer and tighter. Our friendly ties are getting strong on the basis of reality, mutual benefit and mutual respect.