By Zhang Shubin (19 December 2017) – It’s been a longtime aspiration of the Nepalese people to see a denouement to political unrest and usher in an era of stability and prosperity. They pinned their high hopes on elections of three levels of government: local, federal and provincial elections. The voter turnout for local elections was 75 percent. Turnout for the federal and provincial elections was close to 70 percent.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), (CPN-UML), and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), (CPN-MC), forged an electoral alliance on October 3, 2017, and came up with a campaign slogan “Prosperity through stability.” With their campaign focused on the aspirations of voters at their top priority, the left alliance of the CPN-UML and the CPN-MC made a clean sweep in Nepal’s recent provincial and federal elections.
The CPN-UML and the CPN-MC also announced that they would merge into a unified Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) while forming the new government. It’s beyond doubt that CPN-UML Chairman Khadga Prasad Oli will return to power as prime minister while CPN-MC Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” will likely serve as Chairman of the new CPN. Hence, a CPN-led government is coming into shape.
Oli is quite conscious of his mission. When speaking in the eastern Nepali district of Jhapa after his election victory, he set good governance, jobs and development as priorities for the new government. He said during an interview with Annapurna Post, “We equally respect the interests of both [Nepal and India]. Then, we act to protect our own interests … Any person thinking of Nepal’s well-being cannot afford to become anti-Indian. Someone wearing the shoe telling India where it pinches should not be labeled anti-Indian. Let India understand we are not a vassal-state or a protectorate. We are friends.”
China has maintained the principle of non-interference in other nations’ internal affairs. Indian media outlets hype that Beijing has manipulated the formation of the left alliance, which is a falsehood. Such slander is a smear on China and meant to create an excuse for the incumbent Nepali Congress government to scrap the hydropower deal with China and infringe on China’s rights and interests.
The left alliance was forged out of the needs of the two communist parties, not any external power. The CPN-UML aimed to return to power and the CPN-MC was hampered by depressed votes in local elections. The CPN-UML has gained a resounding victory in local elections and decided under an agreement to share seats with the CPN-MC in a ratio of 60:40 for the polls.
The Nepalese people have clearly understood that what the CPN-UML did is for the good of the country. The CPN-UML and the CPN-MC supported each other in the two-phase federal parliament and provincial assembly elections, the result of which showcases that the formation of the left alliance was a right decision for both the CPN-UML and the CPN-MC. Even more, the CPN-UML chose to support a Madhesi candidate in defeating his rival from the Nepali Congress in Province No. 2.
It is important for Nepal to act independently when dealing with other countries. Nepalese leaders should, first of all, be pro-Nepal, and try to avoid playing a China card or an India card against each other. Only through an elaborate balance between the two giant neighbors can Nepal maximize its national interests.
The defeat of the Nepali Congress in the elections can be attributed to its failure to focus on the people’s concerns. Internal divergences in the party, excessive pro-Indian stance and scrapping the hydropower deal with China were among the reasons for its failure in the elections.
India should cast away its zero-sum thinking and join hands with China to help Nepal’s development. To some degree, it is New Delhi’s economic blockade against Nepal after the promulgation of its new Constitution in 2015 that has contributed to CPN-UML’s stunning tremendous election victories. Oli’s China visit last year after the blockade and cooperation agreements signed with China garnered him wide spread public support.
In contrast, India’s move to manipulate the Nepali Congress and the CPN-MC in an attempt to topple the Oli government has backfired and only helped Oli and the CPN-UML gain more respect. India’s embargo has left a long-lasting psychological shadow on the Nepalese people.
As a friendly neighbor of Nepal, China is willing at any time to help with its development. It is expected that the construction of the Jilong (Kerung)-Kathmandu railway, the upgrading of the Araniko highway and Syabrubensi-Rasuwagadi highway, and the resumption of dry ports in Zhangmu ( Khasa) and Tatopani, the full operation of Jilong (Kerung) and Purang ports will be accelerated during the tenure of the next government led by Oli. And bilateral cooperation in trade and investment, the post-earthquake reconstruction, energy and tourism will bring Nepal onto a fast track to prosperity through stability.
The author is a research fellow with the Charhar Institute and director of the Nepal Study Center at Hebei University of Economics & Business. [email protected]. This first appeared in Global Times.