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India keeps a close watch on Nepal developments as Deuba’s star shines

Nepal's new PM Sher Bahadur Deuba

As Sher Bahadur Deuba, President of the Nepali Congress is set to be sworn in today as the next Prime Minister of Nepal, his immediate challenges would be to revive the sagging economy of the Himalayan nation and control the spread of the Covid 19 pandemic.

India will naturally keep a close watch on the political developments in the neighbouring state. Policy observers said that India must carve out a well “thought-through” and clear foreign policy pertaining to Nepal.

Also read: Oli on the backfoot amid political disarray in Nepal

In a historic decision, Nepal’s Supreme Court on Monday overturned outgoing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives.

Udaya Shumsher Rana, member of the Nepali Congress and former minister of state for finance, told India Narrative that traditionally his party has always maintained cordial and stable relations with India.

“For the Nepali Congress international relations have never been driven by domestic politics as we have been seeing in the recent past. The thrust will be to maintain good relations with all the neighbours but we will not be anti-one country or the other,” Rana said.

Deuba, who has the support of 149 members in a 275-member Nepalese Parliament will have a small Cabinet to begin with. He will later expand the Cabinet.

Rana added that Nepal would now work closely with India especially on two fronts—economy and health.

Also read: In a blow to Oli, Nepal Supreme Court reinstates dissolved House, orders appointment of Nepali Congress' Deuba as new PM

“India and Nepal have an open border policy, so the two neighbours need to work in sync. To tackle the menacing pandemic, we need to battle it out collectively. Until everyone is safe in the region, we will not be able to address the Covid 19 problem. It is, therefore, critical to ensure that the entire Indian and Nepalese population is safe,” Rana said.

For the new government, the issue of expanding connectivity will also be critical, as that will boost economic growth. Sources said that China would be closely watching the developments in Nepal. Oli, in particular, has been trying to warm up to China.

Bhaskar Koirala, Director of the Nepal Institute of International and Strategic Studies pointed out that Indo-Nepal relations going forward are laced with unfulfilled promises.

“It seems to me that this bilateral relationship must also seek to transcend, to whatever extent possible, India’s larger regional policy by fine tuning this policy to focus exclusively on Nepal. In other words, greater emphasis must be placed on harnessing this bilateral relationship within that particular straight-jacket,” he told India Narrative.

In a note, published on Monday, the Observer Research Foundation noted that while India’s policy in South Asia is based on “Neighbourhood First”, the Nepal-India relationship goes further, “not just because of proximity, cultural, and people-to-people relationship but because the two countries have marched together in search of identity, inclusiveness, and a value-based democratic system.”

Earlier, Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) foreign affairs department in-charge Vijay Chauthaliwale at an event said that India views Nepal as a sovereign nation and the two neighbours have equitable partnership, sharing mutual respect.

He also underlined that India and Nepal have equitable partnership and share mutual respect. “India would like to work with Nepal on three levels: government to government, people to people and cultural relations,” he said.

India now needs to act fast and boost connectivity which also includes people to people contact.