The Maoist Centre and Unified Marxist-Leninist factions of the Communist Party of Nepal put aside their long-standing and bitter rivalry with one another in order to unite in decisively defeating the Nepali Congress, capturing almost 2/3 of the seats in the new parliament and winning a majority in most of the new provincial assemblies and local councils. The communists are understood as being more China-friendly, while Congress has historically been aligned with India, so the results suggests that Beijing is rapidly gaining influence in the landlocked country while New Delhi’s historical sway is slipping. The former Hindu Monarchy was at one time a de-facto satellite state of its southern neighbor, but that began to change after the communist-driven civil war of the 1990s and subsequent transition of the state into a federal democracy, which was enshrined in the 2015 constitution.
In hindsight, the de-facto blockade that India engineered against Nepal was a watershed event because it convinced Kathmandu of the necessity to lessen its erstwhile strategic dependence on New Delhi by counterbalancing it with Beijing.
Nepal’s new administrative-political boundaries proved to be very contentious because of concerns that they deliberately diluted the influence of the plains-dwelling “Madhesis”, who are considered to be the descendants of Indian migrants and amount to a little less than half of the total population by some estimates. In response to their deadly rioting at the time, Indian truckers refused to venture into the country and thus deprived the people of much-needed fuel and food supplies near the start of winter. Outside political observers and even some figures within Nepal itself described this as amounting to an unofficial blockade designed to pressure Kathmandu into redrawing its proposed federal borders so as to give the “Madhesi” their own semi-independent statelet that could then be exploited by India via proxy to control the rest of the country.
The former Hindu Monarchy was at one time a de-facto satellite state of its southern neighbor, but that began to change after the communist-driven civil war
The crisis was eventually resolved through dialogue and minor administrative tweaking, but the Nepali people survived during this challenging time due to the emergency food and fuel assistance that China had provided them. In hindsight, the de-facto blockade that India engineered against Nepal was a watershed event because it convinced Kathmandu of the necessity to lessen its erstwhile strategic dependence on New Delhi by counterbalancing it with Beijing. As the clearest sign of this policy in action, Nepal and China are cooperating on what could be described as a “Himalayan Silk Road” high-speed railway for connecting the two countries, and the latest electoral results prove that the population stands solidly behind this endeavor.
read more: Avoid interference: Nepal to India
India is terribly alarmed by this because it fears that China will exploit Nepal’s Free Trade Agreement with their country in order to stealthily ship its goods into India, thus creating a complex system of economic interdependency that would tie the two Asian Great Powers together in spite of New Delhi’s American-backed efforts to decouple its future from Beijing’s. In response, India could be expected to leverage its influence with the “Madhesis” in order to create trouble for the governing communist coalition, and it might also try to divide the two formerly rival parties and possibly even threaten to annul the Free Trade Agreement too.
While these remain the three most viable options that India has at its disposal for pressuring Nepal, it shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that each action could lead to an equal and opposition reaction in the form of China strengthening its influence in Kathmandu by extending military, political, and economic assistance to it as it deals with these threats, so New Delhi would do well to exercise prudence and self-restraint before jumping head-first into a Hybrid War with Nepal which might inadvertently engender the very same “pro-China” outcome that India so desperately seeks to avoid.
This was discussed in Sputnik Radio with host Andrew Korybko: Trump Saves St. Pete, China-Syria Rumors, Obama-Hezbollah Conspiracy
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.
Andrew Korybko is a political analyst, journalist and a regular contributor to several online journals, as well as a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia.