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Nepal: Politics takes priority over Pandemic (Wuhan Virus)

Paper No. 6578                  Dated  16-May-2020
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
Nepalese media reported that over 4 lakh migrants are stuck in various countries and are awaiting a rescue.  Of these, the bulk comes from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Malaysia. 
This does not include the migrants from India who are stranded at the border in Bara, Parsa and Kanchanpur districts where the local authorities have shown helplessness for want of orders from Kathmandu.  Many without waiting at the border have sneaked into the country and the increase in the incidence of the pandemic is being ascribed to those returnees from India who have not been tested at the border.
In the midst of this grim situation, there is no mobilisation for unity among the top- leaders and the Prime Minister Oli is still struggling to stabilise his position.
It was thought that with the active intervention of the Chinese embassy and a call from the Head of the International Liaison department of the Communist Party of China, to Madhav Nepal (referred to in our earlier paper 6571 on 3rd May), Oli will be allowed to continue as Prime Minister.  But this was not to be as subsequent events showed.
The expected Standing Committee meeting of the Ruling Party on 7th of May was called off at the last minute.  Oli is said to have had a hard day in the Office and needed some rest and could not attend the meeting the same evening.  It was made out that the agenda for the meeting was not ready and therefore the meeting had to be postponed. The agenda consisted only of one item- the ouster of PM Oli.
The truth of the matter was that Oli would have lost his job had the standing committee met as scheduled on Thursday the 7 the May.  In the 44 strong Committee, Oli and his group could count only 15 including himself and that senior leaders like Jhalanath Khanal were insistent that Oli should quit. 
By Saturday- 9th, Oli had already met the other leaders of the Party and had agreed to abide by the instructions of the Party, a kind of self criticism.  He had also agreed to let Dahal to run the Party independently all by himself, a giant concession if one is to  look at it from a long term point of view.  This was certainly not to the liking of the two other senior leaders of the former  UML- Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal. In the party hierarchy, Jhalanath Khanal comes third and Madhav Nepal comes fourth.  Earlier it may be recalled, Oli tried a “bait” for Madhav Nepal by offering him the third chairmanship of the Party along with Dahal and himself.  Madhav Nepal had then declined.
Nepal media is full of stories how both Math Madhav Nepal and Bam Dev Gautham are unstable characters and that they cannot be depended upon.  It may be recalled the Gautham accepted the offer of Oli to get elected to the Parliament through one of the seats to be vacated by the Party and then get elected as Prime Minister in due course.  No time frame was given and yet Gautham who has not hidden his ambition of becoming the Prime Minister accepted the offer with alacrity and thus saved the day for Oli when he was about to be asked to quit earlier.  It is understood that Gautham has changed his mind again and may not support Oli in the Standing Committee meeting which has to be held anyway some time or other.
Meanwhile, Oli got a good opportunity to distract the attention of the public on the opening of a road by India in Lipu Lekh which would make journey to Kailash Manasarover shorter and easier.  The road is said to pass through the Lipu Lekh area where Nepal has claimed all territory east of the MahaKali river, which India has not accepted.  
The road was in the making for the last ten years by the Border Roads Organisation and there was no objection from the Nepalese side on the construction of the road until its inauguration by the Indian Defence Minster Rajnath Singh two weeks ago.
The Foreign Ministry of Nepal issued a statement that said “The Government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the inauguration yesterday by India of a link road connecting to Lipu lek (Nepal) passing through it.”
Surprisingly, Oli despite facing serious problems internally with his colleagues that could eventually end up in his giving up his job of Prime Ministership, did not latch onto it to whip up “anti Indian sentiments” (read nationalistic sentiments) to stay on in his job.  It may be recalled that Oli’s popularity zoomed when he is said to have stood up to India in the blockade of the border spearheaded by Upendra Yadav after the promulgation of the 2015 Constitution.
Interestingly, two or even more local Newspapers in Nepal suggested that the construction of the link road through the Lipu Lekh area had the approval of the Chinese!  This appears to be one of disinformation for two reasons.  One- India does not need China’s approval or acquiescence to construct the road within its territory.  Second, When both countries (China and Nepal) remapped the entire border area towards end of 1980, the triangular point in the northwest in the Kalapani area which involves India was shifted 6 Km southwards without any discussion with India! 
At the same time when the Indian link road was being criticised, one of the Chinese media mentioned that Mt. Everest was part of the Tibet Autonomous region!  The feature said “An extraordinary Sun Halo was spotted on Friday in the skies of Mount Qongmolangma also known as Mount Everest, the World’s highest peak located in China’s Tibet Autonomous region.”  This feature was taken off the next day but the damage was done.  Surprisingly there was hardly any mention about this cartographic aggression by China in the Nepalese Press!