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Nepal in China’s Political Orbit and India’s Ejection

The involvement of China’s ambassador recently in easing tensions within Nepal’s ruling communist coalition over a troubled succession, which would have earlier prompted Indian engagement, is a powerful symbolic indicator of changing times in Nepali politics. It is provoking renewed concern that the long history of close Indo-Nepal affiliation is coming to an end, superseded by a rapidly growing Chinese presence. Is China winning the competition with India for influence in Nepal though some Indian diplomats avow there is nothing to worry about? Nepal’s erstwhile ruling dynasty had ties of marriage and family in India and as have its Rana elites. Nepal used to share a common Hindu religious identity with Indians and the Nepali language is more Sanskritic than many Indian languages. The economy of Nepal, by virtue of geography and history, is also integrated with India’s and vast numbers of Nepalis work in India. They are allowed to come and go freely, without legal impediment and some possess Aadhar cards, presumably, because the Indian authorities turn a blind eye to it. An important dimension of India’s prominent footprint in Nepal is the presence as well of an Indian-origin business community though Nepalis resent their conduct as frequently self-serving and immoral. Their influence remains compelling by virtue of their ability to cajole and bribe to get their way. However, it would be a mistake to regard them as habitually exercised by India’s political and strategic interests in Nepal.

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