Nepal’s Neighborhood Relations: Wrong Conduct of Right Strategy

By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 13 December 2019) – South Asian Games (SAG) succeeded historically. Nepal didn’t bring just 41 gold medals; it reasonably brought contentment in all Nepali. All the players and office bearers of the Nepal Sports Council deserve applaud for this grandeur completion. Nepali unified to host the SAG, did it splendidly and SAG unified South Asia. Nepal magnificently conveyed message to all South Asians that it developed the capability to fairly host the regional games.   

But there are issues which sometimes do not combine the nations and societies, but fragment them. As diplomats of both the nations put these disputes in a natural way saying as ”part of the game” in a countries linked with open border added with cultures and religion. Nepal-India border dispute comes in certain intervals and fades away without grave homework. And, most importantly both the nations have so far begun the negotiations but failed to resolve the major dispute. Despite the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s effort to begin the thoughtful negotiations, immaturity and ingenuousness have been simultaneously demonstrated. This is not the time to engage in blame game but to forge national consensus leaving aside the petty vested interest.

‘Envoy’ Nepal

Former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal held meetings with Indian Ambassador to Nepal Majeev Singh Puri on Sunday. What transpired between two cannot be predicted. But it can be guessed that they might have discussed about the India’s new political map that includes Kalapani area in Indian Territory. And senior leader Nepal must have informed ambassador Puri that he will possibly be special envoy of Prime Minister Oli to deal the border dispute with India. He must have sought the support of Indian ambassador to make environment in Delhi.   

Prime Minister Oli talked to leader Nepal and proposed to visit India as his special envoy. But it was not made public and he was not appointed.  How did it come out then?   It is serious and it must be probed. Diplomacy is to solve the problems, not to further complicate the controversy. Madhav Nepal is not only senior leader of the party and he is former Prime Minister too. He had handled amicably the neighborhood relations during his tenure as Prime Minister. He is the one who had raised the issue of reviewing the treaty of 1950 peace and friendship, a permanent issue of foes between two countries. Then Prime Minister Man Mohan Adhikary had formally tabled the proposal to India to review the controversial 1950 treaty, MKN was deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

Sending special envoys and receiving them in the host countries is the common diplomatic phenomena. Special envoys are generally sent urgently to deal the concurrent issues with long term adversaries. Madhav Nepal is the right person to be sent as special envoy of Prime Minister Oli to India to find out the ways to solve the Kalapani dispute.

But MKN missed the opportunity. When a government thinks the need of special envoy, it appoints and sends to the nations. But here, rumors came first and then it irritated the situations. When S. Jayashankar was sent to Nepal by Modi as his special envoy, the focus was to stop promulgating the Nepali constitution, which was set all to announce. Jayashanker failed in his mission, Nepal declared the new constitution in the stipulated time. If Prime Minister thinks that leader Nepal can be the right to initiate the negotiations, he can be sent. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister.      

Prachanda’s postponed China visit

After becoming the executive Chairman of the Nepal Communist Party, Prachanda seems hyper active in party politics. He held two meetings of the Party secretariat under his chairmanship and gave direction to the party leaders. His beginning is encouraging, no doubt.

But when Prachanda revealed that he is visiting China leading the large delegations comprised only the central committee members of NCP to learn the Xi thought, it didn’t sound diplomatic. Prachanda is second chairman of ruling party and former Prime Minister; he can visit India, China and USA whenever he feels the need. But leading around 5 dozen members of central committee of the party to learn the Xi thought means to maintain undiplomatic loyalty to certain corner. Nepal’s geopolitical location is sensitive and it always demands the balancing act.  

Imagine, if Prachanda visited India with his 50 central members, what would be the message. He would be called India’s agent, he will be branded as India’s loyal friend forever. Therefore, before taking decision on the diplomatic visits, the consequences should be properly considered.

After a week of that revelation, Prachanda said he postponed the visit due to health of Prime Minister Oli. ‘Prime Minister Oli is in hospital. In such a situation, how can I visit China’ said Prachanda. His reason was of course valid. A co-pilot cannot leave his pilot when the latter is not feeling well and under treatment. In that sense, he took wise decision.

But look at the two emerging paradoxical situations, which should be dealt simultaneously. India’s new map has created problem and Prime Minister Oli is contemplating to seriously take up the issue with India.  For this he is planning to appoint special envoy to talk to Indian leadership including Prime Minister Modi. At the same time, the waiting Prime Minister Prachanda plans to visit another neighbour China with Jumbo team to learn the Xi thought. It doesn’t create balance, it widens the gap.

The two former Prime Ministers – Madhav Nepal and Prachanda- are the senior leaders of the ruling Party and both seem worried about Nepal’s future. Both have the good international exposure and have the capability to equally lead the Nepali sentiment. If they prefer one country over other, or play a card, that will be disastrous in Nepali diplomacy.

Prachanda can visit China with a small team to learn the Chinese development. Madhav can visit India either as special envoy of Prime Minister Oli or as Former Prime Minister and can talk to India’s leadership to find out the solution of border problems. But how to express what things in which time is equally important in diplomacy. MKN shouldn’t have made public the issue as it was not decided.

In diplomacy, the nastiest things should be presented in the nicest way. You cannot say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ in diplomacy since it goes further than this. Any kind of immaturity can lead us towards complexity. At least leaders like them should be cautiously fix their journey if they really want to achieve the national aspiration of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’.

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