KATHMANDU, Dec 21: As the leftist parties -- CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) -- prepare to form a new government after their resounding victory in the recent parliamentary and provincial assembly polls, media reports speak of discomfort in India and 'cautious optimism' in China.
Although the top leaders of UML and the Maoist Center have tried to allay the concerns of the southern neighbor, a section of media has even portrayed the victory of the left parties as a victory of one neighbor against the other.
What then does the election of the leftist parties in Nepal exactly mean to India and China?
Experts in Nepal suggest not reading too much into things. They argue that the election of the UML and Maoist Center is a vote for stability as the country has had nine prime ministers in the last 10 years.
Director of Kathmandu-based foreign policy think-tank Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS), Nishchal Nath Pandey said it is wrong to interpret the poll result in favor of one neighbor or against the other. “Nepalese people have voted in favor of stability. There is no reason to drag India and China into this purely internal affair of ours,” he argued.
Experts believe that although a new government of the UML and Maoist Center may give priority to deepening Nepal's relations with China Kathmandu can ill afford to antagonize India. “The new government may give additional priority to deepening relations with the northern neighbor. But this will not mean any fundamental change or policy shift in relations with our neighbors because of the geopolitical factor,” said security and geopolitical analyst Geja Sharma Wagle.
Relations between Nepal and India reached the lowest level in decades after India imposed an economic embargo against Nepal to pressure the then UML-led government to fulfill the demands of the Madhesi parties back in 2015. “Given the open border, defense relations, trade and transit and the deep socio-economic and cultural relations, I think both Nepal and India will try to improve their relations, putting aside their differences for the sake of their national interests,” Wagle further said.
Former Nepali ambassador Prof. Jayaraj Acharya said Indian leaders and analysts need to know that the Chinese themselves would not do anything in Nepal that will compromise their relations with India. “New Delhi, with a lot of important cards in hand, can be expected to deal properly with an Oli-led government that represents a new reality in Nepalese politics. Both sides will have to ponder past mistakes that were detrimental to both India and Nepal,” he argued.