India reaches out to new Leftist alliance in Nepal

Last Updated 31 January 2018, 17:56 IST

India is reaching out to Nepal's new leftist alliance to prevent the neighbouring nation getting closer to China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 21 congratulated Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) chief K P Sharma Oli, who is set to take over as Prime Minister of Nepal soon. Modi had contacted Oli even as early results indicated that the Left alliance was heading for a landslide victory.

Modi is now sending External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale to Kathmandu.

Though Oli is perceived to be pro-China and known for his anti-India stand since 2015, he has of late positively responded to New Delhi's overtures.

Swaraj's visit to Kathmandu is being seen as a further attempt by New Delhi to engage with the new leadership of Nepal, where India and China compete with each other for geopolitical influence.

New Delhi said that the visit was "in keeping with the tradition of regular high-level political exchanges between India and Nepal" and would reflect the expanding bilateral partnership and the importance that the two countries attach to further strengthening it across diverse sectors.

"The upcoming visit will provide an opportunity to hold discussions with political leaders of Nepal on issues of mutual interest, and to advance age-old, special ties of friendship between India and Nepal," Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said.

A coalition of Oli's party, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) led by Prachanda and the newly floated Naya Shakti won the elections last month.

Challenge to India

Reports received in New Delhi indicated that China had played a role in bringing the three Left parties together – ostensibly to pose a challenge to India's traditional influence on politics of Nepal.

India was upset when Prachanda, who led a Maoist insurgency in Nepal from 1996 to 2006, chose to visit China first after becoming the Prime Minister of Nepal in 2008. Almost all of his predecessors in the past half-a-century had come to India on first official visits as premiers. When he took over as Prime Minister for the second term in 2016, Prachanda visited India first.

(Published 31 January 2018, 17:12 IST)

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