India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party looks to expand its ties with Nepal’s political partiesThe visit by the party’s foreign department in-charge and his meetings with leaders from across the political spectrum come at a time of pro-monarchy rallies across the country.
Days before China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe visited Nepal last month, an advance three-member team representing the Communist Party of China had come to Kathmandu and met Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, among other top officials.
Now, as Nepal and India prepare to hold the meetings of their foreign ministers, a leader of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has come to Kathmandu and has been meeting with leaders from across the political spectrum.
Vijay Chauthaiwale, who heads the foreign department cell of India’s governing party, arrived in Kathmandu on Thursday via land route from Gorakhpur and met with Prime Minister Oli and discussed various issues between Nepal and India on the same day.
Oli shared some of his thoughts about religious and cultural ties between Nepal and India, according to one of his aides.
Chauthaiwale conveyed the message of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Oli sent one to Modi, according to sources.
India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party professes a Hindutva ideology and the visit comes while pro-monarchy rallies are being held across the country.
During his meeting with deputy parliamentary party leader Subas Nembang on Friday, strengthening of people to people relations between the two countries and expanding ties between Nepal’s political parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has an overwhelming majority in the Indian parliament, were discussed.
“We discussed the excellent people-to-people ties between Nepal and India,” Nembang told the Post. “We also discussed how we can strengthen ties between BJP and Nepali political parties.”
However, a member of the foreign department cell of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) said that the cell was not aware of the visit and its objectives.
Chauthaiwale tweeted that he is Kathmandu at the invitation of Finance Minister and ruling party General Secretary Bishnu Poudel but there has been no official communication from the Nepal Communist Party about his visit.
Poudel and Chauthaiwale know each other well and they had played their parts to defuse tension between Nepal and India during the economic blockade in 2015 following the promulgation of the new constitution which India had “noted” rather than welcoming it.
Since then the two have been in regular touch with each other, a central committee member of the ruling party said.
Poudel was the finance minister in 2016, during Oli’s first stint as the head of the government, and travelled to India after the blockade was lifted to fix Oli’s state visit to India, according to the central committee member.
Since Chauthaiwale came at the invitation of Poudel, it also sends a message to Poudel’s opponents inside the party that he does not want to antagonise India, the central committee member added.
There is no official confirmation whether Chauthaiwale is meeting with Nepal Communist Party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the party’s senior leader and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. Both Dahal and Nepal are strong opponents of Oli inside the ruling party.
Bishnu Rijal, deputy in-charge of the foreign department cell of Nepal Communist Party, told the Post that since Oli faced severe criticism for the way he met with Samant Goel, the chief of India’s external intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing, his meeting with Chauthaiwale gives him some respite.
“Probably, BJP is also concerned about growing ties between the Chinese Communist Party and the Nepal Communist Party at different levels,” the central committee member said. “That is why Chauthawale must be here.”
When Kathmandu opposed the construction of a road via Nepal’s Lipulekh that India claims as its own in May this year, Indian army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane had alluded that opposition was made at the behest of another regional power.
Relations between the two countries had reached a nadir since then and the ice was finally broken when Goel, the R&AW chief, made a dash to Kathmandu and met with Oli in October.
The visit followed Prime Minister Oli’s call to Prime Minister Modi on August 15 to congratulate him on the occasion of India’s independence day.
The spy chief’s visit was followed by that of Indian Army chief Naravane for the investiture ceremony for the rank of honorary general of Nepal Army in November and that of Indian foreign secretary Harsha Vardan Sringhla later that month.
Chauthaiwale also met Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali on Friday.
“Pleased to meet with Vijay Chauthaiwale, In-charge of BJP's Foreign Affairs Department,” Gyawali tweeted. “Discussed on wide-ranged aspects of Nepal-India relations.”
Later in the day, according to the sources, Chauthaiwale held talks with Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, leaders of the Janata Samjabadi Party Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato, among other politicians.
“Chauthaiwale’s meeting with major political party leaders also shows that BJP wishes to work with any political party of Nepal irrespective of their political ideology,” said a former Nepali Ambassador to India who did not want to be named.
Earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party sent its then general secretary Ram Madhav and some junior leaders in its bid for political engagements with Kathmandu.
Traditionally, Nepal’s political parties have had good ties with leaders from the Indian National Congress, socialist leaders of India and some communist parties.
Ruling party leaders Poudel, Gyawali and Oli’s foreign relations adviser Rajan Bhattarai did not respond to the Post’s repeated calls for comments.