Prime Minister Oli’s Pragmatic Diplomacy

By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 12 November 2020) – Amid the intense factionalism within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and the obstacles created against the smooth functioning of the government, Chairman and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has not deviated himself from his mission of achieving national goal – Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. He has hinted that he will not buckle under a series of spiteful moves designed either inside the party or outside it. He has put it on the line – the party and the country won’t compromise with the spoilers by leaving the people and their agenda in the lurch.

Resolute stand
Prime Minister Oli’s resolute stand on the boundary issue with neighbouring India and the latter’s realisation has of late created positive atmosphere for holding formal bilateral meeting with it focusing on the substantial agenda. India launched cartographic aggression by incorporating Nepal’s Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek in its map. Nepal responded to it with ‘tit for tat’ diplomacy, forcing Indian to come to the negotiating table after months of verbal blame games.
With the cabinet reshuffle that saw the induction of three new ministers, including Bishnu Poudel as Finance Minister, the government has begun to demonstrate more political character, embracing commoners’ sentiment. The other day the cabinet decided to remove 10 per cent tax levied on imported books and provide free treatment to the COVID-19 patients. Hopefully, the government will not let down the people in coming days. On the issue of foreign relations, the government has taken immediate neighbours, India and China, into confidence for shared benefits and development.
The strongest attribute of Nepali politics is that the political parties are in common mission to achieve the national goals of development and prosperity. However, problems lie in understanding and respecting with each other. This situation emerged as they all are setting their sight on grabbing power instead of serving the people and the nation.
After the formal visit of India’s army Chief Manoj Mukunda Naravane from 4-6 November, India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is scheduled to travel to Kathmandu to formally hold talks with Nepal that has long been requesting the southern neighbour to sit for talks on various issues, including the territorial dispute.
According to India’s media reports, the visit of India’s foreign secretary is a sign that New Delhi is willing to go extra mile in improving bilateral ties that had gone sour earlier this year. Naravane came here not just to be conferred with honorary general of Nepal Army as a continuation of tradition maintained by the two armies, but also to mend fences with Nepal.
Naravane’s visit was more concerned in bridging gaps and clearing misunderstanding, thereby paving the way for meaningful diplomatic dialogue. Prime Minister Oli has categorically conveyed the message that Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani belong to Nepal based on historical evidences and documents. If India still claims over these places, the best way for the two sides is to immediately sit for dialogue, Oli had said. Naravane had also said that the two countries could resolve all bilateral issues through dialogue since India and Nepal have long-standing unique relationship.
Prime Minister Oli had clearly said the issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity are serious which Nepal cannot compromise at any cost. Neither should they be left unaddressed for long as these can be the cause of enduring enmity. Understandably, Prime Minister Modi’s envoy RAW Chief Samanta Kumar Goel and Naravane have conveyed Oli’s message and that is being reciprocated.
During his two-day visit (26 -27 November), though not officially announced yet, Foreign Secretary Shringla will hold meetings with his counterpart Bharat Raj Paudel and will meet Prime Minister Oli and President Bidya Devi Bhandari. It is believed that his visit will finalise the schedule for the meeting of the Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee (JTLBC) and the meetings of foreign secretary and Joint Commission led by foreign ministers of the two nations.
Giving a hint to both neighbours about his balanced policy, Prime Minister Oli Wednesday visited Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal adjoining China and inspected the Arun -III hydropower project being built by Indian companies. He also inspected Kimathanka, a northern border point. Indian government has been closely watching the progress of Arun -III hydropower project, which some elements tried to obstruct, is now running smoothly after government assured security to it. Similarly, China agreed to support Nepal to convert Koshi highway into Koshi corridor connecting Jogbani of southern point with Kimathanka. Both Arun-III and Koshi corridor are the significant development and infrastructural projects for Nepal. The smooth construction of these projects involving both neighbours manifests the country’s balanced policy focusing on its economic development.
Some are hell-bent on discrediting Oli’s nationalism and patriotism through fabricated news and narratives. But, such attempts have gone down the tube time and again. It is unlikely that they will succeed in future, too. Many political analysts have nurtured their flawed views that India will never hold talks with Prime Minister Oli on the disputed boundary and will instead take tough measures like that of blockade but they have proved themselves wrong. This situation is not the outcome of Prime Minister Oli’s diplomacy of pleasing India, but a result of India’s need to maintain friendly relations with Nepal.

Modest diplomacy
The change of guard in the USA and subsequent spillover effects on the rest of the powerful nations of each continent, including that of Asia, has also given message that power domination and arrogant diplomacy does not produce expected results. Even in diplomacy, modesty is the best policy to bring desired results.

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