By K S Tomar, Shimla
14 July 2020
Now, the ‘Chinese hand’ is pulling strings in Nepalese politics, not unlike the “Pakistani hand” in Jammu and Kashmir. It is widely believed that it is the Chinese that helped Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli save his job after he successfully deflected an intense intra-party pressure for his resignation.
Many Standing Committee members of his party, the Communist Party of Nepal, were firm on an ouster of Oli who fought with his back to the wall. He wasted no time in playing opposition Nepali Congress for his survival while blaming India and its machinations for his troubles.
It is noteworthy that the Standing Committee includes, among other, former PMs Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal who blasted PM Oli for his failure to effectively manage the Covid-19 pandemic.
Oli used all the tricks in the trade to frustrate the Standing Committee and prorogued the parliament and frequently postponed meetings of the highest decision-making body. As a result, his detractors failed to oust him.
Foreign policy analysts believe this survival was entirely due to a Chinese intervention that issued a stern warning to communist leaders in Nepal – ‘behave’. They were told not to split the party.
Analysts are convinced about the Chinese hand that prevented the ouster of Oli; they note a series of meetings the Chinese envoy in Nepal had with President President Bidya Bhandari and senior Communist leaders to bring them onto a common platform in order to overcome the political crisis.
The Chinese envoy is considered to be the force behind Oli’s aggressive stand against India as he claimed three Indian villages. As we all know, Nepalese parliament passed the resolution to include Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura – areas that India claims as its own – in Nepal’s political and administrative map.
Nepalese media, on their part, played out how Chinese envoy conveyed Beijing’s diktat to communist leaders to avoid a split that could benefit India. Retired Indian Army Major, Gaurav Arya, claimed that Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has been “honey-trapped by Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. He added that China has “videos” as well. Arya said Oli is controlled by her.
Arya wrote on Twitter: “Word on the streets of Kathmandu is that Nepal PM, KP Sharma Oli has a glad eye and has been honey trapped by Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. That’s why when China gobbles up Nepali villages, Oli says nothing. Earlier this year, at an event organised at the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu on the International Women’s Day, Hou Yanqi was seen in a lehenga-choli and danced to a popular Nepalese song, “If only I could fly like a bird under the wide-open sky!”
Nepal government took Indian channels off air after there was a public outrage over reports insinuating links between Prime Minister Oli and Ambassador Hou Yanqi.
“As Indian news channels violate the ethics of journalism, we have decided not to broadcast them except the Doordarshan, following the consultations among the service providers,” Dhruba Sharma, vice chairman of Mega Max TV was quoted as saying. Mega Max TV, is the largest independent cable television service provider in Nepal. Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ) and Press Council Nepal have also criticized these Indian TV channels which dragged Chinese ambassador into Nepali politics.
Experts say there are many more factors that contributed to the survival of PM Oli.
Enemies of Oli, who are but his fellow comrades within the Communist Party Nepal (CPN), held several rounds of dialogue with the PM to save the party from splitting and also they did not want to be seen as ‘saboteurs’ .The rival leader, Prachanda, tried to convince Oli to quit honourably but the Prime Minister bluntly refused, it is understood.
The disagreement also led to the postponement of standing committee meeting to July 17 when fireworks could be expected. Analysts wonder if that meeting will spell the doom of Prime Minister Oli.
Secondly, the rival communist leaders are cautious about ‘anti India’ sentiments in Nepal and hence they do not want to give an impression that they are sympathizers of Indian government especially when Oli had openly accused India of destabilisation.
Thirdly, Prachanda faction was suspicious of Oli right from the beginning and suspected that he could go to any extent to cling to power and issue an Ordinance or split the party to connive with anyone.
Fourthly, Oli is reportedly so desperate to continue in power that he met former PM and Nepali Congress leader, Sher Bahadur Deuba, to seek his party’s support in case there is a split in CPN. This has baffled many in Kathmandu.
Nepali Congress is known for having cordial relations with India for decades but for Oli it does not matter as his only aim is to save his own chair. This simply implies: even if he is against India right now, he would not mind working with people that are sympathetic to India so that he can cling to power.
Fifthly, analysts believe the ongoing Pandemic prevailed upon the psyche of Oli opponents; they are not in a mood to rush through a no-confidence resolution in the Standing Committee. People may not appreciate such a move; it could be counterproductive, they fear.
India will be keenly watching the outcome of Nepal’s political soap opera. If Oli falls, India could heave a sigh of relief as Nepal under him is acting at the behest of China.
But if Oli succeeds and continues, India has reasons to be concerned as he considers India his enemy number one.
Writer is a former Editor of Hindustan Times’ Rajasthan edition. A political analyst who has spent four decades in journalism, K S Tomar spent six years in Nepal in the run up to the restoration of democracy in 1990 covering the complex and highly sensitive trilateral relations between Nepal, India and China.