Nepal’s Parliament deadlocked

Parliamentary Speaker election creates stand-still

Nepal’s Parliament has been unable to pass any bills for three months now since Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara resigned following charges of sexual assault of a colleague. The deadlock continues as Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has rejected candidates for Speaker nominated by the Chair of his own ruling party, the Nepal Communist Party, in favour of his own candidates. When a new Speaker is elected, Parliament will have its work cut out as it attempts to reset its complicated foreign policy objectives, especially Nepal’s relationship with India.

Leaning in toward China . . .

Following a border standoff with India in 2015, when India unofficially imposed a two-month long blockade of the main border crossing, Nepal has taken steps to diversify its trading partners and reduce its economic dependence on India. Prime Minister Oli has sought Chinese investment for building railway connections with China, constructing hydropower plants, and improving the transit industry. During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Kathmandu in October, Nepal signed 17 agreements, including investment deals under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Meanwhile, the Nepal government has protested India’s inclusion of the disputed Kalapani territory in its new maps, subsequently requiring Indian workers to have a Permanent Account Number and implementing other restrictive policies against Indian imports and travellers.

India losing ground . . .

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been trying to actively maintain Indian influence in South Asia vis-à-vis rising Chinese political and economic clout. India declared the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy in 2014 as a means to actively improve relations with its immediate neighbours, which includes Nepal and Bhutan. Prime Minister Modi’s visits to Nepal in 2018 and Bhutan in 2019 aimed to rally support against China, but both Nepal and Bhutan have continued to express their interests in Chinese investments.