Ritu Raj Subedi
With Nepal plunging into a new round of political crisis, it is back on the geopolitical radar. The sudden dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) and ensuing split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has astonished both domestic and external observers alike. There is no dearth of people, who see the current turmoil as the fallout of big powers’ rivalry on the Nepali soil. But this line of thought appears defective, and at the same time it also exposes the nation’s eroding sovereignty and ability to handle the tricky internal dynamics. But what is true is that the foreign players have come to the scene as the Himalayan nation again risks turning into the state of ‘controlled instability.’
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said he dissolved the parliament and sought fresh mandate after he was not allowed to work smoothly. He has pointed the finger at his own opponents within his party for the unpleasant move, which invited more critics than supporters. Whatever the reasons behind the disbanding of the lower House, it has mostly delighted the anti-systemic forces, which claim that the move has kick-started the process of derailment of new constitution. Beyond the national border, the anti-communist elements, particularly the Indo-Western power, are savouring the downfall of the NCP. This is not merely an ideological explanation but a geopolitical reality that is here for all to see.
Just recently, a delegation of Communist Party of China (CPC) made a whirlwind trip to Nepal and met the leaders of both factions of NCP as well as the opposition parties. Many interpreted China’s diplomatic activism as its desperate attempt to prevent the split of the NCP. The Indian and Western media outlets and experts tried to build a narrative of Chinese intervention in the internal affairs of Nepal but a spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry refuted such accusation and stated that China had no policy of interfering in the domestic affairs of other nations. Nepali politics has already turned haywire before the Chinese delegation, led by Vice Minister of CPC’s International Department Guo Yezhou, arrived here. As the media reported, the Chinese team tried to navigate the shifting sands of Nepali politics and its geopolitical implications. They also enquired about the possibility of the unity within the fractured NCP. The Chinese leaders listened to the views of Nepali leaders more and put forth their own less before them.
But Chinese concerns are conspicuous in the wake of emerging political mess in Nepal. China has been repeatedly calling for stability, sovereignty and strong government in Nepal for two reasons. First, a predictable stability ensures the smooth functioning of large numbers China-aided projects in Nepal. Second, the anti-Chinese forces could abuse the Nepali territory to create ‘anarchy’ in Tibet, if Nepal is mired into another round of instability and loses capacity to handle the domestic challenges and foreign interference. A stable and prosperous Nepal is also equally in the interest of India because a weak Nepali state always poses a security threat to the former owing to their open, porous and unregulated border.
There are reasons why the CPC has shown its increasing interest in the NCP’s internal dispute. Both have comradely ties since Mao’s time. Nepali communist parties and CPC have developed their relations based on the principles of communist internationalism and shared their experiences and ideas to benefit the peoples of both nations. Their relations date back to 1951 when the NCP sent its politburo member Gauri Bhakta Pradhan to China for formally opening fraternal relations with the CPC. In 1956, a 3-member CPN delegation, led by general secretary Mana Mohan Adhikari, visited China. Adhikari had stayed there for three years for the treatment of his ailment.
In early 1980s, general secretary of the then CPN-Marxist-Leninist CP Mainali led a two-member team, including incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel, to China at the invitation of CPC international department. At that time, the then CPN-ML still followed a violent strategy of revolution but the Chinese communist leaders did not pass their judgement on its tactic. “The CPC leaders neither supported nor objected to our method of revolution,” recalled Mainali. During the underground period, leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Amrit Kumar Bohara had braved the freezing cold of the Himalayas to reach Lhasa, and then travelled to Sichuan province before finally setting foot on Beijing. With the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990, there have been frequent exchanges of visits between the leaders of the two parties.
Last year, NCP and CPC signed a 6-point memorandum of understanding to facilitate exchange of high-level visits, organise the training for their cadres, boost cooperation in terms of experience sharing and expand exchange of visits of local-level leaders. The two parties also agreed to conduct annual joint programmes on thoughts and ideology. Upbeat about the unification of erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, the CPC accorded priority to the relations with unified NCP with a hope that the latter could be more trustworthy and bankable friend in pursuing broader diplomatic, political and economic cooperation between the two neighbours. The CPC has also counted on the NCP dispensation to promote its global strategic development project – Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Nepal.
Even if the CPC has maintained balanced ties with virtually all parties, the world’s largest communist party, under its charismatic general secretary and President Xi Jinping, has shown soft heart for the ruling communist and socialist parties across the world - from Laos to Nepal and Cuba to Venezuela. So it is no surprise to see China getting upset with the fall of NCP government that had mustered sweeping popular mandate in the 2017 federal elections. Apparently, the CPC is aware of the risks if it puts all its eggs in one basket. During his meeting with Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba, Vice Minister Guo jogged Deuba’s memory that late BP Koirala had played an important role in enhancing and cementing Nepal-China ties and invited him to visit China this year. This is how China has tried to foster practical cooperation with political parties and governments based on its One-China policy and principle of Panchsheel.
(Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal, Subedi writes regularly on politics, foreign affairs and other contemporary issues. firstname.lastname@example.org)