Dhaka, Bangladesh
What Narendra Modi’s win means for Nepal

What Narendra Modi’s win means for Nepal

Wrties Anil Giri

With the re-election of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kathmandu’s diplomatic and political circles are certain to spend the coming weeks parsing what this could mean for Nepal. Discourse in Kathmandu is likely to centre on the future of Nepal-India ties, India’s neighbourhood policy, and Kathmandu’s attempts at striking a geopolitical balance, especially given increasing major power maneuvers in the region, according to foreign affairs experts and former diplomats. Hours before final elections results were announced, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli telephoned Modi to congratulate him, exchanging views on strengthening Nepal-India relations, and expressing his readiness to work closely together. The landslide win for Modi, who ran on a business-friendly, nationalist plank, is certain to have far-reaching consequences for Nepal, especially given the recent developments between the two nations. Since Modi first came to power in 2014, the nationalist prime minister has visited Nepal four times, seemingly in line with his much-publicised ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. However, Nepal-India relations took a frosty turn in September 2015, after the promulgation of the new constitution in Nepal and the subsequent imposition of a blockade by India along the open border. There have been attempts from both sides to normalise relations since then, but public perception of the BJP administration – and Modi in particular – has yet to reach the highs of 2014. While some in Kathmandu were cautious about Modi’s victory, others have been more optimistic. The rise of Modi has given Nepal an excellent opportunity for economic development, said former minister for foreign affairs Kamal Thapa. “I am certain that Modi will give continuity to the foreign policy he had adopted in his first term, and apart from the economic blockade, our relations with India are back on track,” said Thapa. Modi’s win is likely to spark more geopolitical debates in view of the inroads China has made into Nepal, especially during Oli’s tenure. Through the Belt and Road Initiative, and increased investment in hard and soft powers, Beijing’s increasing influence in Kathmandu has become a cause for concern for the Indian establishment.

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