An opportunity for a reset in Nepal-India ties

On Sunday, Nepali Congress (NC) leader Sher Bahadur Deuba won a vote of confidence in Nepal’s Parliament, bringing an end to an eight-month-long political crisis. The crisis was precipitated by his predecessor, KP Oli, dissolving the Parliament against constitutional rules in December. The Supreme Court (SC) reinstated the House. In May, President Bidya Devi Bhandari once again dissolved the House, despite Mr Deuba having a list of the majority of parliamentarians backing him in a bid to become Prime Minister (PM). The SC once again ordered the restoration of the House. Mr Deuba was sworn-in, and with the support of his own party, the Prachanda-led Maoist force, a communist faction led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and a Tarai-based party, is now expected to take the country to elections next year.

Besides the restoration of democracy and an end to strongman rule in Nepal, this is an opportunity to reset India-Nepal ties. The perception in Kathmandu that New Delhi was backing Mr Oli till the very end eroded India’s image. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to Mr Deuba on Monday after he won the confidence vote and private diplomatic outreach to Mr Prachanda — the key architect of the alliance — shows that Delhi is willing to cooperate with the new government.

Instead of allowing intermediaries on either side to destabilise ties by undermining the government, or allowing ideological factors such as the desire to restore Nepal’s Hindu status to prevail, India must focus on cementing State-to-State ties, assisting Nepal with vaccines, backing a federal democratic secular republican framework, and working with the government. Political goodwill through support for democracy and delivery of promises and projects are key to pushing back China’s influence in Nepal.