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Welcome PM Oli

New Delhi needs to take him at his word — and trust the people of Nepal.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: October 13, 2015 12:48:55 am
Khadga  Prasad Oli, nepal, nepal pm, nepal new pm, K P Oli, nepal news, nepal prime minister, nepal new prime minister, nepal pm, nepal news, nepal news pm, world news, pm nepal, oli, nepal constitution Communist party leader Khadga Prasad Oli. (Source: Twitter)

Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli isn’t the man New Delhi would have chosen to lead its Himalayan neighbour. Nepal’s first prime minister under its new constitution is seen, correctly or otherwise, as pro-China and anti-India. He has been cast as hostile to claims for greater federal autonomy by the Madhesis, Tharus and Janajatis — a constituency India has batted for, with little success. His penchant for inflammatory rhetoric — “Oli ko goli”, his speeches are called — has alarmed some. The fact that Oli began his career as a radical Maoist beheading landlords, and remains a trenchant secularist, hasn’t endeared him to some in PM Narendra Modi’s foreign policy inner circle. Ten years ago, when former PM Manmohan Singh’s government, with the support of a cross-section of Indian politicians, began nudging Nepal towards inclusive democracy, this probably wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for.

For exactly these reasons, New Delhi should welcome PM Oli’s rise to power.

It is critical to the legitimacy of Nepal’s constitution that the act of breathing life into its words is seen as directed by representatives of its people — not the hidden hand of the powerful neighbour next door. It is true that the birth of the new order has been stained by blood, with peoples in the plains — as well as others — believing they have have been short-changed by the hill elite. Yet, these are questions Nepal’s new constitution and political system must find answers to. In one interview, Oli said he was aware “people see me as an illiberal hardliner and anti-Madhesis. But I will show what I am by my actions, by addressing their demands through constitutional amendments”. Delhi needs to take him at his word — and trust Nepal’s people to deliver punishment in the next election if he fails.

The bottomline is this: India’s relationship with Nepal isn’t, and shouldn’t be, shaped by fear. It is true China’s growing presence in the country has geopolitical consequences for India. Yet, Chinese economic power is one of the defining realities of our times. Diplomacy that seeks to contain it by coercion or cajoling is destined to implode, leaving a trail of ill will. Delhi should, instead, build on the extraordinary strength of ties that bind the two nations. Millions of Nepalis live and work in India, after all, while millions more are bound by ties of kinship, and yet others give their blood to guard our borders. Kathmandu will not ever become a proxy for Beijing, because it cannot. PM Modi’s decision to invite Oli to Delhi is a step in the right direction. Delhi must show that he is welcome, no matter what its concerns and differences.

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First published on: 13-10-2015 at 12:15:44 am
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