NEW DELHI: Communist leader Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli was formally appointed Prime Minister of Nepal on Thursday. This follows the strong showing by the Left parties in the elections held in November and December last year.
Oli, known for his pro-Chinese leanings, blames India for the Madhesi blockade of Nepal in 2015, and his subsequent ouster as prime minister later that year. This time, as part of the somewhat uneasy alliance between Oli’s CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the joint chairmen of the alliance, the two leaders are expected to take turns for two-and-a-half years each as prime minister.
To mend fences and re-affirm India’s support for the new leadership, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj led an Indian delegation which spent two days in Nepal early in February, talking to both Oli and the Communist leadership.
While some analysts believe Oli will try to balance relationships with his two large neighbours, most privately admit that it is unlikely. “We must understand that Oli came to power on an anti-India and pro-China plank, which was well received by Nepali voters who held India responsible for the hardships they suffered during the Madheshi (plainsmen) blockade of 2015. For him to suddenly kiss and make up with New Delhi would be political suicide,” said one Indian diplomat.
“It could be business as usual,” said Yubaraj Ghimire, a veteran Kathmandu-based editor and political analyst. “But India is understandably worried about Oli’s visible proximity with China, mainly as retaliation to the economic blockade by India for five months beginning in September 2015.”
Another Nepali journalist put it far more bluntly, “As far as Kathmandu is concerned, it’s goodbye New Delhi, and hello Beijing. Deal with it.”