India continues to meddle in Nepal’s politics,’ declared a headline in China.org.cn a government website Sunday, the day Nepal voted in the first of two-phase elections which will determine whether the nation will continue its traditional ties with India or take a clear swing towards its northern neighbour, which is aggressively wooing the former Hindu kingdom with money and other sops.
The article in the website, written by a Nepali columnist Ritu Raj Subedi, quotes from a book by former Indian foreign secretary Shyam Saran to say that India’s interventionist policy towards Nepal has always been counterproductive. “India continues to be frantically involved in Nepal’s internal affairs, especially after the two big communist parties, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre, formed an electoral alliance under the banner of the ‘Left Alliance’, with a complete merger to follow the vote,” it says.
The elections are the first under the new Nepal constitution adopted in September 2015, and polling is being held for both the parliament and provincial assemblies. It is expected to bring an end to the tumultuous political situation and the Maoist insurgency in the country after monarchy was abolished in 2008 and Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic. The main contest is between the Nepali Congress (NC) led by PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, seen as being favourable towards India, and the new Left alliance—of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) led by K P Oli and Maoists led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”—which is wooed by the Chinese.
Despite their concerns over the new constitution, Madhesi parties are contesting in their regions of influence, and are likely to support the NC after the polls. Indian analysts say that regardless of who wins, the new government will have to walk a diplomatic tightrope because it cannot afford to antagonise either of its large neighbours; but there are murmurs in New Delhi over its waning influence in the landlocked state which was once India’s staunchest ally.