Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Oli will make his first trip to India on April 6, keeping the tradition of the Nepalese PM making his first overseas trip to India. What might put a spanner in works is that China, which is close to Oli, has reportedly invited Oli to Beijing on April 8. If Oli has to keep his date with Beijing, he would have to cut short his India trip thereby creating a new set of problems.
Oli will be given the red carpet treatment, as India scrambles to restore some of its former position in Nepal and re-establish some kind of a relationship with the Nepal PM, who feels much closer to China than India. He will stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and is scheduled to be awarded an honorary doctorate by an Indian university.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Kathmandu in February with a political olive branch promising to work with the democratically elected government in Nepal. That visit helped to ease the tension between the two countries, particularly with the Oli government fearing India would try to undermine his government.
In the event, India was blind-sided by the elections in Nepal, which was a virtual sweep by the left coalition between UML and the Prachanda’s Maoists. The perception has gained ground that pro-India forces have been overtaken by pro-China forces in Nepal.
India also lost ground with the Madhesis even though the 2015 blockade was intended to pressure Kathmandu’s ruling hill elites to get them a better constitutional deal. Madhesis have been left with only a single province (province 2), and when India nudged them to participate in the elections without achieving their constitutional goal, New Delhi’s stock in the Terai slipped, almost as much as it did with the hill elites. Fundamentally, the Indian narrative in Nepal is muddled – unlike China – because it is a complex mess of official messaging, diaspora and the Hindu narrative pushed by the BJP.
However, the 2018 budget has seen a 73.33% allocation for Nepal than in the 2017 budget. With Rs 650 crore, India intends to several projects that are ongoing in Nepal. Some of these projects are integrated check posts (ICP) at Birgunj and Biratnagar, railway links from Jogbani to Biratnagar, Terai Roads project, small development projects, Dharmashala at Pashupatinath Temple complex, and Hetauda Polytechnic.