Prachanda sworn in as PM: New tie-ups in Nepal, concern in India

Prachanda’s inauguration: New Nepali Alliances and Indian Concerns. Sher Bahadur Deuba was the best-case scenario for India because Prachanda’s ally in the current administration, KP Oli, was perceived as pro-China. This page discusses what is going on in Nepal and what it means for India.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, nicknamed “Prachanda,” was sworn in as Nepal’s new prime minister on Monday after defecting from his long-time rival, former Prime Minister Kharga Prasad Oli.

In the fourteen years since the monarchy was deposed, Prachanda has served as Nepal’s head of state three times. He oversaw the Maoist uprising in Nepal for more than ten years before entering mainstream politics in 2006.

Prior to Sunday, Prachanda and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had formed an electoral alliance. This five-party coalition led by Deuba’s Nepali Congress won the most seats in a splintered mandate following the November 20 elections. After rejecting Prachanda’s demand for the PM seat, Deuba abruptly left the alliance.

Prachanda: Out-of-the-ordinary collaborations and new business ventures

Prachanda and Oli, once sworn enemies, quickly patched things up and drove together from Oli’s house to the President’s office, carrying a letter of support from 170 members of Parliament, well ahead of the 138-member-of-Parliament-half-way mark.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) and Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal are allies, but their bond is stronger than their differences (Unified Marxist-Leninist). A number of smaller parties are challenging the UML’s 78 seats and the Maoist Centre’s 32 seats, at least one of which is pro-monarchy.

The Janata Samajbadi Party, the Nagarik Unmukti Party, which is led by murder defendant Resham Chaudhary, the Janamat Party, which has its headquarters in Eastern Tarai, and the brand-new youth-focused Rastriya Swatantra Party are also part of the coalition. These parties received a total of 20 seats despite the fact that they lacked a clear political ideology.

The 14-member pro-monarchy Rastriya Prajatantra Party’s support, on the other hand, is unexpected. The United States, the European Union, and India have been chastised by the party for their “active” involvement in Nepal’s transition from a unitary Hindu monarchy to a federal and secular republic.

Deuba is stubborn.

The Nepal Congress-led coalition might have succeeded if Deuba had agreed to a major compromise with Prachanda. This would have meant losing the Prime Ministerial position. Observers speculated that Deuba’s politically astute wife received a government job in exchange for his resignation.

Deuba’s re-election campaign, on the other hand, was predicated on more than just the Nepali Congress becoming the party with the most seats (89). He’s also accused of boasting about having “the support of both Washington and Delhi” during private talks.

Prachanda takes oath as Nepal PM, forms small cabinet

Indeed, following the announcement of the results, the US and Indian ambassadors frequently met with Deuba and Prachanda in the hope that their alliance would last.
The meeting between the two ambassadors and the leaders was widely condemned. Opponents and critics alike warned that any attempt to influence government formation could be interpreted as “subverting the mandate,” and that their actions could involve China as well.

The China issue

Since Hou Yanqi, Beijing’s most prominent ambassador at the time, left earlier this year, there hasn’t been a Chinese ambassador in Kathmandu. Hou was instrumental in fortifying Oli and Prachanda’s Communist alliance in 2018, which ultimately disintegrated four years later in 2021. Chen Song, the new Chinese ambassador, will arrive in Kathmandu once the new government takes office.

Barshaman Pun, general secretary of the Maoist Centre and a long-time supporter of a coalition between the two Communist parties, recently returned from a two-week visit to China, ostensibly for medical treatment, and played a key role in bringing Oli and Prachanda together.

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari is said to have maintained constant contact with Chinese diplomats and other top officials in Beijing. She is close to Oli, believes in the Leftist alliance, and was disappointed with the Deuba-Prachanda alliance.

India’s objectives

Deuba, as India’s President, would have been ideal. According to Delhi, Oli is pro-China, and the formation of the government by Communist forces represents a step backwards. India-Nepal relations deteriorated during Oli’s administration from 2015 to 2016 and then again from 2018 to 2021, but they improved after Deuba took office in 2021.

Regardless, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first foreign head of state to congratulate Prachanda, demonstrating the importance of this relationship to India. Since 2005, India has been assisting the Maoist leader, and when he deposed Oli in 2016, Delhi felt relieved.

On the other hand, Oli’s influence over Prachanda’s administration will have an immediate impact on bilateral relations. Furthermore, when Prachanda visited Delhi earlier this year, Modi declined to meet with him. Deuba had been greeted with a red carpet two months before.

One of Delhi’s immediate concerns would be the fate of the West Seti hydropower project, which was awarded to India by the Deuba government. The decision had been challenged by Oli’s UML.

Uncertain alliances and impending problems

Nepal has had 33 governments in 32 years since becoming a parliamentary democracy in the 1990s and a republic in 2008.

The formation of the new Prachanda-Oli coalition’s 25-member cabinet will be the coalition’s first litmus test, with positions and portfolios available to both coalition members and Independents.

With elections for President and Vice President, as well as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, set for mid-March, parties will have to be more accommodating, especially given the partisan roles these offices have played in recent years.

Support for the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s $500 million US infrastructure pledge, which the Communist parties suspect has a hidden security agenda, could also pose a problem for the new administration.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' takes oath as Nepal's new Prime Minister

Because China has been working to unite various Communist party factions in the region, India will need to keep a close eye on developments. We have to keep an eye on it, he said to PTI.

Prachanda understands the significance of India-Nepal ties, according to Rae, who served as India’s envoy in Kathmandu from September 2013 to February 2017.

I’d also like to mention that we worked with Prachanda during both of his terms as Prime Minister. The president of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), J P Nadda, recently invited him to visit India. He admitted that he was aware of the importance of India-Nepal ties.

“As a result, we must prioritise the strengthening of all connections, including those related to connectivity and energy security. We’ve made significant progress in our trade and energy security collaboration, and I expect that to continue.

The former ambassador observed that “there has been a huge political churn in Nepal, and new urban-focused, youthful political forces are emerging” during his time there. We must approach them.

A border dispute existed while Oli was prime minister, but “both sides came together to defuse it,” he said.

Rae stated that Kathmandu is aware of Sri Lanka’s plight as a result of Beijing’s BRI loans in relation to Nepal’s trade relations with China.

It will be interesting to see how the new administration handles this, he says.

China has worked hard to increase its influence in Nepal. Nepal is critical to India’s overall strategic interests in the region, and both leaders have frequently referred to their historic “Roti Beti” relationship.

Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand are the five Indian states that border the country.

Land-locked India is a major source of goods and services transportation in Nepal.

Nepal benefits from India’s sea access, and it imports a large portion of its needs from and through India.

The Treaty of Peace and Friendship between India and Nepal, signed in 1950, serves as the basis for the two countries special relationship.

Prachanda stated during his July visit to India that, in order to realise the potential of their bilateral cooperation fully, India and Nepal must address some “left-by-history” issues diplomatically.

He emphasised the significance of resolving issues concerning the 1950 India-Nepal friendship treaty, the boundary dispute, and the Eminent Persons Group report.

The EPG was established a few years ago to investigate various aspects of India-Nepal relations, including the 1950 friendship treaty between the two countries. Nepal has asked for a review of the agreement.

After Kathmandu published a new political map in 2020 that included the three Indian territories of Limpiyadhura, Kalapani, and Lipulekh as part of Nepal, relations between the two countries became severely strained.

India was outraged, calling it a “unilateral act” and threatening to reject any “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims.

No matter which government takes power in Kathmandu, bilateral ties between Nepal and India must remain strong due to the two countries’ cultural, economic, and social proximity. Political analysts said on Monday as Nepal’s new prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda,” was sworn in.

Nilambar Acharya, a former Nepalese ambassador to India, believes the new government must maintain cordial relations with India despite differences in working styles.

CPN-Maoist Centre chairman Prachanda is Nepal's new Prime Minister

President Bidya Devi Bhandari named Prachanda, 68, Nepal’s new prime minister after unexpectedly leaving the five-party ruling alliance led by outgoing Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress and staking a claim for the premiership before the president’s deadline expired on Sunday.

Prachanda was sworn in as Nepal’s Prime Minister for the third time on Monday.

“Of course, we have issues with India, and how we handle such issues varies from administration to administration,” Acharya says.

“All of these issues, including the border issue,” he says, must be resolved diplomatically. The former diplomat adds that besides silent diplomacy, “sometimes we need to pursue open diplomacy in tackling various bilateral issues”.
On Sunday, Prachanda and CPN-UML chair and former prime minister K P Oli, who had been each other’s harshest critics until Saturday, agreed to a power-sharing deal.

Edited by Prakriti Arora

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