Indian foreign secretary’s visit: Regular rapport building process or an attempt of political meddling?

Like in the past, the visit by Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra has ruffled a few feathers in Kathmandu. Here is why.

Navin Jha

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Kathmandu: Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra wrapped up his Kathmandu visit on Tuesday. He was on a two-day visit to Kathmandu starting Monday. 

During the visit he met with nearly all the top political and government leaders—President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Puhspa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli, Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Paudyal, and several other leaders from political parties. They are playing a role to appoint a person of their favor in the post of president, he said.

But his visit has raised some suspicions in Kathmandu. Speaking in the parliament on Wednesday, Chitra Bahadur KC, the chair of Rastriya Janamorcha, referring to Kwatra’s visit said that foreign forces are directly intervening to influence the upcoming presidential election.

Kwatra was in Kathmandu at the invitation of his Nepali counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal. 

Why is his visit being perceived differently? There are two main reasons.

One main reason is a series of meetings he held with Nepal’s powerful politicians. This has raised suspicion in Kathmandu that he had visited Nepal with Delhi’s clear indication to change the existing coalition of the  government.   New Delhi is thought to be uncomfortable with the fact that Nepali Congress is out of the government.  Analysts say New Delhi wants Nepali Congress in and CPN-UML out of the existing coalition.

Second reason is attributed to New Delhi’s concern about who would become the next president of Nepal.  Political parties in Nepal are in loggerheads as to who should be elected as the head of the state. While CPN-UML, the major coalition partner in the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government, has staked  claim on the presidency, Nepali Congress and Maoist Center are advocating for a consensus candidate.  New Delhi appears to be in favor of the latter option.

Analysts are of the view that visits from foreign power centers on the eve of presidential election, at a time when no political parties have enough strength to elect a person of their choice as the head of state, are meaningful.  

The structure and composition of provincial assemblies and federal parliament indicate instability from the province to the center, opines Chandra Dev Bhatta, who is an expert on geopolitics.  It is therefore natural that there is an increased internal and external concern about the election of the president who will remain in power for a full five-year term. According to him, such an interest by the power center has increased also because the president was dragged into controversies in political decisions in recent times.

Shree Krishna Anirudra Gautam, another political analyst,  agrees that foreign power centers are showing their interests about the election of  the new president. “Foreign power centers appear to be showing their concerns on the election of the new president,” he said.