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Nepal’s ambassador to India likely to be recalled as tensions between neighbours rise

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New Delhi: Amid domestic turmoil and the widening diplomatic gap with India over PM K.P. Sharma Oli’s “cartographic engineering exercise”, Nepal could recall its Ambassador to New Delhi, Nilamber Acharya, before the end of his term, ThePrint has learnt.

According to diplomatic sources, the Oli government believes that while Nepal and India should hold formal rounds of talks over the disputed border region of Kalapani “at the earliest”, it would need to first “replace” its envoy here with someone who would give the rapidly plummeting bilateral ties “a fresh lease of life”.

It was PM Oli’s decision to send Acharya to India as envoy since he was one of the prominent members of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Nepal-India Relations.

This comes at a time when the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the country’s ruling party, is facing severe internal challenges, while China tries hard to keep it from falling apart.

The NCP is facing fissures between PM Oli and two other senior party leaders, former prime ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Madhav Kumar Nepal. Both leaders have demanded Oli’s resignation

Senior NCP leaders such as Jhala Nath Khanal and former deputy prime minister Bamdev Gautam have also demanded Oli’s resignation as they vie for significant roles in the government.

According to Vijay Kanta Karna, a veteran Nepalese diplomat, however, while the government is giving serious thought to recall Acharya, it will not be easy to replace him due to “anti-India” sentiments in the government.

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“PM (Oli) had thought he (Acharya) would be good for India. He has a good understanding and contact with Indian Communist parties. But of late, he is facing a lot of criticism in Kathmandu,” said Karna, now a professor of political science at Nepal’s Tribhuvan University.

“It’s now up to PM Oli now to decide whom he would send to Delhi because the relations are now lowest ever. Finding a replacement will be difficult now,” he said.

Nepal’s internal strife and China’s ‘active role’

Earlier this month, the internal strife in the NCP led Oli to bring back two controversial ordinances that he had issued in April, aimed at splitting the party into two.

However, a crisis seems to have been averted for now while the “unity is being kept intact” within due to an “active role” being played by China, according to sources in the Oli government.

“It was due to China’s intervention that the split has been averted for now. Party has decided it will remain united. Besides, we are now busy with the work related to flood relief and in order to cooperate with common people, the leaders have decided not to go for a split now. The matter will be taken up later,” a senior NCP leader told ThePrint.

The discussions on the internal political struggle and Oli’s role within the party will be taken by the Standing Committee after 17 July.

The Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has been holding marathon meetings with all senior NCP leaders. She also met President Bidhya Devi Bhandari earlier this month in a bid to keep the sparring leaders of the NCP together.

Recently, in an interview to a Nepali daily, Hou said that under the strategic relationship between Beijing and Kathmandu, the ties have “entered a new era and faced a new historic opportunity for further development”.

According to official sources in Nepal, China’s move is “welcome” as it is trying hard to keep the party united.

“India has long had the same kind of intervention in Nepal with the Madhes parties. Today, China is doing that with the ruling party. We do not see any problem in that,” an official said.

Oli’s ‘cartographic engineering exercise’ will be proven wrong

Meanwhile, Nepal’s ties with India seemed to deteriorate further with the latter miffed at Oli’s “cartographic engineering exercise” that changed the country’s map unilaterally, according to a senior official in India.

Nepal unilaterally changed its map on 20 May, showing the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its own borders, which was followed by a constitutional amendment to adopt the new map in its national emblem on 13 June.

The official said that while India is open to holding bilateral dialogue at the level of foreign secretaries, the Modi government is confident of “proving” Nepal “wrong” as it gears up to produce evidence and historical facts on the disputed region of Kalapani.

The official added, “They took a decision which they had to. Now when talks take place they will have to come onto the table with proper facts and evidence.”

However, India has ruled out the possibility of talks on the border issue at the moment, till the political situation in Nepal stabilises.

“The political situation in Nepal has become very complex and difficult. When the situation stabilises, we will talk. Right now people are angry with the government and with its internal struggle,” the official said.

Last month, Oli had said that New Delhi was hatching a plan to oust him and also blamed India for the political crisis he faced in his country.

Furthermore, Nepal’s cable and satellite television providers Friday stopped airing Indian news channels, citing “objectionable” content being shown against their prime minister.

The Nepal Embassy in Delhi has also handed over a letter to the Ministry of External Affairs for the abusive content used in these channels against their PM.

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