Analysis

Rumblings of regime removal?

Bindesh Dahal

Bindesh

With Nepal issuing new political and administrative map incorporating Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani, the Indian establishment seems to have been shell-shocked. Indian media is going berserk over the issue while Ministry of External Affairs has called it a “cartographic assertion” and “unilateral action”. Indian MEA conveniently overlooked the fact that last year Indian government had issued the revised map incorporating Nepali territory without consulting Nepal.

This recent fracas has unleashed war of words between both the countries. The dramatic and fact-blind Indian media, with trouble-maker in chief Arnab Goswami leading the pack, has been bellowing that Nepal “dared” to issue the map with China’s support. The Indian channels also took actress Manisha Koirala to task when she tweeted that “all are looking forward for a peaceful and respectful dialogue between all three great nations now”. There is nothing untoward in Koirala’s tweet as the tri-junction at Lipulekh calls for China’s say on the matter but the dragon has requested Nepal and India to solve the issue unilaterally.

Indian media, unaware of the fact that historical evidences support Nepal’s claim to Kalapani territory, has undermined Nepal’s sovereign status. Seeing China’s hand in the fresh dispute reflects India’s Sinophobia, a hangover of the traumatic loss during Sino-India war in 1962. Putting salt on that wound, Chinese soldiers have been increasingly aggressive at Line of Actual Control in Laddakh and Sikkim over a month. The border flare ups have heightened tensions in the military top brass therefore India’s army Chief Manoj Mukunda Narvane stopped short of naming China but baselessly asserted that Nepal is raising the issue “at someone’s behest”.

Amidst charged emotions and heated discussions, some Indian journalists and columnists have hinted at India’s plans for engineering regime change in Nepal. As per their reading, PM KP Sharma Oli has irked India so much that he needs to go. Quoting the officials, they assert that this is Oli’s fault. Prabhash K Dutta in India Today wrote that “The current anti-India posturing by Nepal has clearly stemmed from Oli’s domestic political compulsions and his party’s pro-China stance.” Nayanima Basu in The Print carried out a piece which goes like,  “A top official suggested Oli’s stance will narrow the scope for an amicable settlement, and reiterated India’s stated position that the Nepalese aggression on the issue is driven by Oli’s domestic compulsions.” She further quoted the top official: “By taking such a hard stance against India, New Delhi had said, Oli is “deflecting attention from his own unpopularity and intra-party troubles””.

Other media outlets have highlighted PM Oli’s speech at the parliament in which he said that he looks forward to whether “truth shall prevail” or “lion (might) shall reign supreme”, hinting towards the Indian emblem of Ashok Chakra with four lions. The media also emphasized Oli’s statement that virus coming from India seems more lethal than the ones from Italy or China. Indian officials seem to have interpreted as Oli hardening his position and crossing the red line.

Going through Indian media’s interpretation of the recent turn of events, we can divine that Indians think China will do its best in keeping Oli in power. But they also see lines of division in the ruling party NCP which India can exploit. Last month, Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqui was active in meeting with the NCP leaders as there were machinations to oust Oli from power. It is learnt that Oli had almost tendered his resignation but his opponents could not submit the name of a successor and Oli himself proposed the name of Bam Dev Gautam. But political development changed overnight and Oli kept his throne which the Indians believe to have been possible with the Chinese support. Indrani Baghchi in The Times of India wrote at that time: “[T]he “compromise” hammered out by the Chinese may come under pressure anyway from the inherent divisions among the Communist leadership of the NCP — the widely divergent backgrounds of the maoists and UML, as well as the personal ambitions of all their factional leaders may make it difficult to sustain the current peace.”

Oli-Modi-Agressive

This reading of the Indian establishment insinuates plans for change in Nepal’s government. India may approach NCP leaders disgruntled with Oli. In fact, it is learnt that NCP Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” has intensified political meetings. Prachanda had replaced Oli as the PM earlier during Oli’s first tenure at Oli’s resignation speech to the parliament has hinted towards India’s hand. Seeing India’s renewed discomfort with Oli, Prachanda’s eyes may have lit up. After all, he has a grudge against Oli backing out of an agreement to share the post of the head of government. It will not be a surprise if India reaches out to him. But given the current situation in which feelings of nationalism are heightened and rally-around-the-flag thinking is gaining ground; any political maneuverings can be counter-productive to Prachanda and even to India.

Interestingly, India’s retired army officer Major General Gagan Deep Bakshi while giving his opinions on map war lamented the fact that India conceded a self-goal in sheltering and then putting communists in power while dismantling monarchy and the Hindu nation. He complained that when in power these communists have dared to ditch India in favour of China. His statement and the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)’s former officer Amar Bhushan’s thinly veiled fiction “Inside Nepal” have proved that India engineered the change in political system in Nepal. If Oli keeps his belligerent stance against India, can we see the southern neighbour engaging in another change in our polity?

Published on 24 May 2020

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