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India alarmed at political turmoil in Nepal

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Nepal's president Bidhya Devi Bhandari has dissolved Parliament at the request of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's cabinet and announced that general elections would be held in April and May, more than a year ahead of schedule.

Sandwiched between China and India, politics in Nepal are also influenced by the priorities of its giant neighbors. India has been pushing back against Beijing's growing clout in a country that New Delhi considers its own back yard, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, diplomatic ties between Kathmandu and New Delhi remain on tenterhooks due to Sunday's political developments, according to The Print.

Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali was to visit India this month to hold ministerial-level talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar.

"The dissolution process is yet to play out. It's an internal issue. Our objective is to insulate ourselves from Nepal's internal politics. This is their own situation and they have to deal with it. In fact it's intra-party politics," the Print quoted as saying a top Indian government official, who refused to be named.

In last three months, a series of high-level visits had taken place from India to Nepal, starting with the chief of India's external intelligence agency head of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Samant Kumar Goel, in October. Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane visited in November, followed by Foreign Secretary Shringla the same month. Shringla vowed to take the ties, which had been under strain since May, "forward".

In India, the latest political twist is being tracked with keen interest, especially after Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Kathmandu and met Oli last month in the first high-level diplomatic visit to the country since the slide in ties after the boundary row this summer, according to Indian Express.

India's inauguration of a new road from Dharchula to Lipulekh on the Mansarovar Yatra route in May had angered the Oli government, which came out with a new map of Nepal, adding to it an area of 370 sq km at the tri-junction of Nepal, India and China (Tibet), which India claims is its territory.

A Constitution-amendment bill was passed by Nepal's parliament to legitimize the alteration to the country's map with the addition of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura. The passage of the bill and the new map led to breakdown of communication between the two countries.

Nepal is a relatively new democracy. A decade-long Maoist civil war had ravaged the country until 2006, leaving at least 17,000 people dead. In 2008, the country became a democratic republic by abolishing the 240-year-old monarchy.

Apparently, Prime Minister Sharma Oli asked for the parliament to be dissolved so he wouldn't have to step down in favor of a rival according to the political agreement that formed the current government in 2017, bringing the country to the brink of a constitutional crisis.

Two communist parties merged with the understanding that the leaders would trade places as prime minister after 2-1/2 years. Sharma Oli, however, has been reluctant to step aside, leading to a rift in the party. On Sunday morning, dozens of ruling-party lawmakers moved to file a vote of no confidence against Oli.

Vijay Kanta Karna, former diplomat and now professor of political science at Nepal's Tribhuvan University, told The Print: "This was expected of him. After the map row with India, he thought he had the majority support of his people and that he is now an all-powerful member of the party. But he failed to manage the party and that is why we are seeing this massive crisis in Nepal today."

The Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was formed in May 2018 by uniting the two major Left parties of Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) led by Oli, and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), led by Prachanda. It was decided then that the two leaders will serve as joint chairmen of the party under an electoral alliance.

At the time, both Oli and Prachanda had agreed to a power-sharing deal under which both would be PM for a period of two-and-a-half years. But the deal never got ratified within the party, as Oli avoided taking it to the General Council, according to the Print.

This angered the other faction led by Prachanda, Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, who started a campaign to get Oli to resign, both as PM as well as chairman of the party. The faction supporting Oli also registered its own political party as the clamor for his resignation increased.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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