By Col (Retd) Shiv Om Rana, PhD.
Nepal needs a two-party system of democracy for any government to rule without encumbrance and fear of being toppled by own coalition or Opposition.
In the present scenario, coming together of the only two communist parties — CPN Maoists Centre and the moderate CPN- UML to form an alliance for effectively governing the country, is better than forming an alliance of loose multi parties which have their own axes to grind. CPN – UML party won 80 direct seats and 41 out of Proportional Representation method. And Maoist Centre won 31 seats directly and 17 seats on the basis of Proportional Representation. Both the parties have garnered 63.27% seats in the Federal Parliament that is total of 174 seats out of 275.
This should ensure the stability of the government for next five years. It will make it easier to carry through any resolution that the Cabinet will decide in the future for the betterment and development of the country. I am sure both the parties would have reached some pre-poll understanding and agreed on Common Minimum Programme(CMP) to follow for their tenure. Also, six provinces, except the No. 2, Madhesh, in their kitty, will offer good opportunities to develop the country without any governance-related problems.
The present constitutional provisions also don’t allow any “Vote of No Confidence” motion” against the Prime minister/ government for two years. Even if defeated, another Vote of No Confidence Motion cannot be brought up for another one year. This is the second best alternative to single-party rule for the smooth term of the Parliament. At least the Prime Minister does not have to guard his back while trying to steer the country to development and prosperity as per the CMP.
Nepal hasn’t seen any economic progress since 1996. Foreign aids dried up because of political instability. Political instability and Maoist mayhem have destabilised the country for almost a decade. Tourism– the main revenue earner has failed to take-off. No jobs have been created, nor was there any industrialisation and infrastructure development. The rush at the Tribhuvan Airport, Kathmandu or recruitment rallies of the Indian and British army symbolize the trend– how the youth are being forced to go out of the country for employment in menial jobs.
Stock exchanges of any country are good indicators of economic activities in any country. Nepal stock exchange has shown no growth and remained flat for so many years. No state or foreign investor is confident to put his or her money in a country where a new government cancels the previous government’s orders. No venture capital can flow in and thus no new enterprises can be established which would create jobs. Case in point is when the Prime Minister Deuba abrogated the 2.5 billion dollar Budhi Gandaki hydroelectric project which was signed by the previous Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
This new political development should open up a vast opportunity for the nation. I am sanguine that the country will indeed make better progress in an economic front because the communist alliance has secured a majority in six provinces out of the seven which will make it easy to have the good coordination for the development projects in those provinces. Madhesh has remained their Achilles heel. It remains to be seen how Madhesh is handled by the new regime.
The time has come that the Nepalese people have to accept to live with the communist ideology in the country. I can only hope that the tight-knit communist alliance is totally ideologically motivated to govern the country for the progress and economic upliftment of downtrodden and pay proper attention to social justice, nationalism and egalitarianism. I emphasise the total commitment to the ideology they have chosen. Earlier there appeared to be blurring of ideological perception which created instability for decades.
Shri KP Sharma Oli is likely to be the next Prime Minister of Nepal. His demonstrated liking for China over India is a well-known fact. India should be ready to live with that fact and try to evolve its foreign policy in a manner that should be seen as a friend to Nepal rather than being seen as a destabiliser and interfering neighbour.
Nepal is hemmed by two powerful nation on the north and south. Both China and India are emerging as powerful nations and trying to increase their areas of influence. China will like to stop India’s democratic and secular spread to its southern border into Tibet Autonomous Region. (China already has thorn in its flesh as Uighur pro-democracy uprising in its north-west Xinjiang Autonomous Region) India is wary of Chinese influence in its neighbourhood that is Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. Pakistan is already in its pocket. Recent Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Maldives and China is a sign of China’s success in its outreach in South Asia. Pakistan is its longtime FTA partner. It is also exploring FTA with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Nepal had already requested China for a railway line to connect Kathmandu with mainland China which is being considered seriously and also the immediate resumption of the old Araniko highway. Nepal recently signed China – Aid, Oil and Gas resources survey project and a framework agreement on Promotion on Investment and Economic Cooperation. It must be noted that Nepal voted for One Belt One Road (OBOR) in favour of China.
Communism establishing a strong foothold in Nepal is a sort of political coup for the South Asian region. India must accept that the communists have arrived at the door. A former diplomat, M. K. Bhadrakumar, said “These are early days but a communist government in Nepal will profoundly impact the geopolitics of South Asia. It is useful to factor in that Nepal took a neutral stance on the India-China standoff in Doklam. India’s capacity to influence Nepal’s foreign policies under a communist government will be even more limited. Equally, it remains to be seen how Nepal’s ‘defection’ from the Indian orbit might have a domino effect on Bhutan.”
In my opinion:-
➢ India needs to reassure Nepal of its neutrality and non-interference in its domestic affairs.
➢ It needs to focus on deepening its strategic engagement benefiting both the countries.
➢ Try to undertake various infrastructure development like rail, road and hydropower projects in fair terms, very competitively and with total transparency. It must be understood that greater Chinese involvement in Nepal’s political life will be inevitable and therefore compete fairly with the Chinese government/company to obtain the projects in their favour. Implement the work well to gain the confidence of people.
➢ Provide any immediate assistance to Nepal in cases of emergency like it did during the earthquake in 2015. That is the advantage it must maintain which is not available in China.
After the communist’s ascent in Nepal, it will be the best to avoid the spread of any India centric propaganda in that country. Nepalese people, in general, are inclined and friendly with India. India provides a huge opportunity to Nepalese for employment, education and medical facilities. The communism is losing its sheen the world over. Let us hope that it will be a matter of time when Nepal will wean away from it. Until that time I can only wish well for the people of Nepal.
My wish list for new Nepal in the next decade will be,
1. To have strong bias for physical infrastructure development like highways, rail links and airports to connect all remote parts of the country
2. To go full hog for digitisation of all government services so that a poor man does not have to travel long distances and stand in a queue for the same. Estonia became independent from erstwhile USSR in 1991 achieved more than 99% digitisation of all its government services within two decades. Government to government assistance can be sought from them to achieve full digitisation in the country. Both political masters and bureaucracy must work relentlessly in this direction.