India and Nepal: Koirala’s Visit and New Delhi's Interests

13 Sep, 2013    ·   4117

Pratima Koirala asks if the frequent visits to India by Nepali politicians could have an impact on the political situation in Nepal

Pratima Koirala
Pratima Koirala
Research Intern

Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala visited New Delhi in August 2013 upon an invitation from the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. This was Koirala's first official visit to India after his election as the party president in September 2010.

Is there a reason why the Indian government has frequently been extending invites to Nepali leaders to visit India in the past few months? What impact could this particular visit have on the current Nepali political scenario?

A Strategy for India
It is believed that of late, India has taken up the initiative of dealing with Nepal at the highest political level; previously, Nepal was allegedly dealt with by the intelligence agencies.

The Koirala visit to Delhi is the fourth one in rows of visits by Nepali leaders - earlier, UCPN-Maoist chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, senior leader of Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba and senior leader of CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal visited India.

All the Nepali leaders have reiterated that their India visit was very fruitful and it contributed to strengthening relations between both the countries. However, many times it is felt that the treatment given by Indian authorities to visiting Nepali leaders has proved that India has been providing differential treatment to different leaders. This can be seen in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s decision to meet with only some of the visiting Nepali leaders: Koirala, Nepal and Deuba.

The priority given by New Delhi to the visit of President of Nepali Congress Sushil Koirala proves that India is inclined towards the Nepali Congress again. The cordial treatment to NC President Koirala reflects that the India’s ruling Congress party has reached the conclusion that the UCPN-Maoist may not prove to be a credible ally. India began to engage with the Maoists since the signing of the 12-point agreement in 2005, which formally ended the decade-long armed insurgency and also paved the way for the setting up of a republic in Nepal.

Koirala’s visit does not hold much significance as his visit came just two months after his party's senior leader Deuba’s visit. India’s seems to lack any specific criteria and strategy in deciding whom to invite and whom not to, and this has a negative impact on intra-party politics by creating mistrust and internal conflict among leaders. What India has failed to understand is that its activities will only contribute to anti-India feelings in Nepal which is already at its peak. For India, therefore, it is high time to realise the limits of influencing the course of the political process in Nepal.

The Indian side has always stated that these visits are part of the Indian government's policy to expand talks and consultations with the Nepali political parties to strengthen bilateral ties. Obviously, India has played a crucial, and more importantly, dominating role in all the political developments that have occurred in Nepal. If a benign Indian policy could harness the favourable reputation observed, then India can cover greater strides by abandoning its passive-reactive strategies.
However, India has repeatedly made clear that it has nothing to do with Nepal’s internal affairs. Indian leaders, ministers and government officials have made this view clear during their umpteenth meetings with Nepali leaders, civil society members, media persons and many others as Nepal braces to conduct the second CA election. But at the same time India does not seems to think twice about plunging headlong into the cesspit of day-to-day politics in Nepal and defend their stand, stating that these are only pragmatic policies to feel the pulse of the Nepali political parties and their positions on the upcoming election.

Significance of Visits
There is no denying the fact that the kind of competition or rush that prevails between Nepali leaders to visit India. The underlying meaning of the visits or meetings is an open secret. It has been felt in Nepal that the Nepali politicians who have close ties with India have failed to preserve the core national interests, either by deferring to Indian interests unnecessarily or antagonising them through hollow rhetoric.
 Moreover, depending on their interests in the power game, politicians might have different orientations in defining Nepal’s relations with India. Nepali leaders consider their meeting with Indian leaders as having some heavenly blessing. The common observation that India’s blessing is needed for acquiring power. This may serve as a blessing in disguise for India’s role in Nepal.

Consequently, these political consultations or blessings will hardly change the political situation prevailing in Nepal. Unless Nepali leaders take responsibility for their own acts, nothing will change. They also urgently need to settle their deep political rifts through a consensual political process.

Much will depend on the political course in Nepal in the coming days. Although the political leaders of Nepal have assured India that the elections will be held in November, there are speculations that they may be postponed.