The CPN-UML leadership has avoided clashes with India over the last two and a half decades to rise in power, but this is not so true any longer. Following the promulgation of the new constitution and CPN-UML leader K.P. Sharma Oli’s elections as prime minister, CPN-UML’s strategy has changed.
Not only at the top leadership, even the party’s rank and file, down to the grassroots level, have started openly accusing India of messing with Nepal’s internal political affairs. CPN-UML’s new confidence to take a new attitude on India is understandable. With the promulgation of new constitution and forming the coalition government under its leadership, CPN-UML has comfortably managed to secure the position of party president for its own vice president Vidya Bhandari.
The relation between Indian establishment and CPN-UML had deteriorated during the final stage of promulgation of the new constitution. Although Nepali Congress, UCPN-Maoist and CPN-UML stood together rejecting Indian suggestions to postpone the constitution writing process for a month, CPN-UML is now alone in launching a tirade against India.
Taking a strong stand against Madheshis, Oli was elected the prime minister. The violent agitation and blockade in the border made prime minister Oli and CPN-UML’s rank and file more vocal against India.
In a program organized to commemorate Madan Bhandari’s death anniversary, Prime minister Oli accused Madheshi agitators as carrying the agenda of external power. He did not name the country. However, UML’s junior leaders spared no time in accusing India for supporting Madheshi and Janjati agitation and Nepali Congress for trying to dislodge the government.
Prime minister Oli’s relations with Madheshis and Janajati’s are at their lowest level. His new move further distanced the UML's relations with Nepali Congress. Although Prime Minister Oli has won a large number of admirers when he took stand in favor of new constitution, he has lost his human rights and western European admirers for his recent agreement with Maoists accepting blanket amnesty to the Maoists involved in heinous crimes against humanity.
Revoking the working visa of Canadian Citizen Pennar on the ground of his reported comment and arrest of British tourist on the ground of his reported involvement in agitation further damaged the image of CPN-UML chair and prime minister Oli.
With the cancellation of the visit of president Vidya Devi Bhandary and summoning of Nepalese ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyaya on the charge of his involvement in recent government change strategy, CPN-UML and K.P. Sharma Oli have pushed the relations between his party and government to a historic low.
Although this government is potrayed as China-tilted, prime minister Oli has done nothing in favor of China. Despite frequent official requests from China, Oli government is unable to bring five Chinese aircrafts ordered by Nepal for Nepal Airlines under the loan agreement between Chinese Exim Bank and Nepal.
In its last two and a half decades of politics, CPN-UML has risen to power taking all the tactical steps and balancing relations. However, CPN-UML also encouraged anti-Indian feelings among the party’s rank and file as all other communists.
The current leadership even endorsed the Mahakali Integrated Treaty, which many other communists termed as anti-national, at the cost of party split, like other communists-which have gradually lost their ideological grounds following the collapse of communist ideology worldwide. CPN-UML also found the anti-Indian plank useful to woo the voters.
After relations hit the bottom during a five-month trade blockade that was finally lifted in February, India-Nepal ties are again rocky -- a development that could help China expand its influence in the landlocked but strategically important Himalayan nation.