Nepal has seen a continued political shift since the general elections of November last year. Amid this fluidity, the interest of external powers in Nepal seem to have gone up. There have been several high-level visits to Nepal from the US, India and China over the past recent months. In this context Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talked to political analyst and Tribhuvan University lecturer Bishnu Dahal about Nepal’s political and geopolitical situations.
Why do you think the old coalition reunited?
In internal politics, the factor remains the same, but the variable factor is geopolitics. When the CPN (Maoist Center) broke the coalition with the Nepali Congress to form an alliance with the CPN-UML, the China-card played an active role while the Indian and US-side failed to carry out their task. But as the old coalition has been reunited, I see the initial point of this event is the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact’s endorsement from parliament. As soon as the case of MCC arose, the then Nepal Communist Party (NCP) split, and the US got the Nepal government close to them.
Also, as the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government voted in favor of Ukraine in the UN, it can be clearly believed that we were in the US-led team. The Americans want a favorable government in Nepal for which they are showing their direct involvement.
As soon as Pushpa Kamal Dahal became the prime minister, China-funded Pokhara International Airport was inaugurated, a Chinese team came for Kathmandu-Kerung railway study, and the Chinese side opened all the borders. But the US successfully took the game into its own hands. That is why the Maoists and Nepali Congress are now together.
Why do you think external forces are so interested in Nepal?
External forces come to Nepal because they see a lack of national interest and policy here. Our politicians have no political or national interest. All they have is personal interest because they always want to be in power. Nepali politicians actually invite external forces and play with them to retain power. And, the external forces like this situation because they get to project their power here.
India and China always want to be in Nepal to counter each other. As for the US, it feels that it could influence Nepal and bolster its presence in the South Asian region from here.
Do you think India’s influence in Nepal has tempered down in recent years?
We are largely dependent on India. But the data has been changing. In recent years, rice import from India has declined by (around) 30 percent. Not due to our production, but a lot of people are leaving Nepal for employment and study. But these people are not going to India. They would rather go to Western countries and the Persian Gulf nations.
So, not only the political presence of India, but also the economic presence has been shifting to Western nations, especially to the US. And I have already mentioned how we are tilting toward America and why they want to be with us.
How do you see the South Asian geopolitical scenario?
Though India and the US are close to each other these days, India has maintained a good relationship even with the enemies of the US. For example, India has maintained cordial ties with Russia and Iran for its own benefit. Even India and China have a good economic relationship. India has come closer to the US because China has enclosed India from all sides. Sri Lanka’s Hambantota International Port and Pakistan’s Gwadar Port are controlled by China.
In the South Asian region, India has the business of around $7trn, whereas China’s is of around $18trn. Though India is doing good, China has an upper hand. I see India has both opportunities and threats from China and the geopolitical scenario of South Asia is often determined by the activities of these two nations. I hope India will review its neighborhood policy to address the problems.
Where do you see the future of Nepal in this geopolitical climate?
The geopolitical game is always there. It’s not just in Nepal and in the South Asian region, but across the globe. This comes with both opportunities and threats. For instance, the US eagerly wants to invest in our hydropower projects. We will have the opportunity to create employment by establishing large-scale industries. But if our politicians fail to grab the political opportunity for national interest, it will not help us, and we will become just a puppet and playground of big nations.