Pro-China government in Nepal: Strategic worries for India
With the communist coalition set to form the government in Nepal, the worries for India in the South Asia region seem to be mounting. India now finds itself cornered in the diplomatic battle with China in the region.
The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and the Nepal Communist Party-Maoist Centre coalition, which will form the government in Nepal, is known for its ties with Beijing. The Left's big win would in all probability mean that KP Oli will become prime minister.
India, which had a strong influence on Nepal, seems to be losing its grip. In the hindsight, it now seems that the 2015's Madhesi protest, which was seen to be backed by New Delhi, has not worked out in favour of India. It has in fact taken Nepal closer to China.
Nepal, so far, depended only on India for the supply of fuel and petroleum products. During the Madhesi protest, all supplies from India were blocked and New Delhi did not seem like doing much to resolve the crisis. The Himalayan country, which is landlocked between India and China, faced acute petroleum crisis. Then Prime Minister KP Oli publicly declared that India's blockade of Nepal was in support of the cause of Madhesis. Oli turned to China for help and Beijing gladly reciprocated. Oli visited China in March 2016 and signed a commercial agreement for the alternative supply of petroleum products.The 2017 campaign also saw Oli call for Chinese investment in Nepal.
But all is not lost for India. Nepal and China share border which is treacherously mountainous and it is very difficult to transport oil through such a region. It would require massive overhauling of existing infrastructure so that petroleum products can be transported from China to Nepal. This would in-turn increase the cost of the product. India, on the other hand, has established road links with Nepal and the fuel supply to the Himalayan nation has been going on for years. Nepal by no means can totally do away with depending on India. But the fact that Nepal is beginning to lean towards China ought to ring alarm bells in among India's foreign policymakers.
Nepal also must not forget that India was the first country to respond when a devastating hit the Himalayan country on 25 April 2015. Modi government mobilised resources and manpower to ensure relief reached within hours. Besides this, India and Nepal share a special relationship with an open border and Nepalese nationals living and working in India. India and Nepal also have strong cultural and religious ties.