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Barely a month after what many thought was a welcome and important poll outcome in neighbouring Nepal, the situation changed quite starkly over the Christmas weekend.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on Sunday appointed Pushpa Kamal Dahal, leader of the parliamentary party of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), Prime Minister of the Himalayan nation, after seven parties and three independent MPs led by former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) came together in a dramatic post-poll alliance, report Suhasini Haidar and Kallol Bhattacherjee. Congratulating Mr. Dahal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The unique relationship between India and Nepal is based on deep cultural connect and warm people-to-people ties. I look forward to working together with you to further strengthen this friendship.” Officials, however, said New Delhi would watch the development closely, given that the RSP, one of the key constituents of the Leftist coalition, has criticised India for building an embankment along the Mahakali river at Dharchula, that has led to protests by Nepalese on the other side.
Patience or principle?
How India engages with repressive regimes in the region has remained under focus throughout the year, especially in the context of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the military junta in Myanmar. India’s responses, as well as its silences, merit attention in this regard.
In an outrageous recent move, the Taliban issued a decree banning university education for women in Afghanistan. India, which is among a handful of major powers that have engaged the Taliban without granting it formal recognition, expressed “concern” on the development.
The Hindu’s editorial on the issue argued: “Instead of pleading helplessness, there is much that the global community can do, acknowledging that women’s rights are at the core of the issue with the Taliban, and not just a “desirable” outcome that is optional in Afghanistan’s future. It must curtail engagement with the Taliban, which depends on external assistance to run its government structures. Lofty words at the United Nations Security Council and other international fora have done very little to alleviate the hardships faced by the people of Afghanistan, and even less to further India’s interests or goodwill amongst a people that it has historically been seen as a good friend to, it said.
Meanwhile, India, along with Russia and China, abstained from a U.N. Security Council resolution criticising Myanmar’s military regime, and instead called for “quiet, patient” and “constructive” diplomacy with the junta. “We believe that the complex situation in Myanmar calls for an approach of quiet and patient diplomacy. Any other course will not help in resolving the long-standing issues which have prevented enduring peace, stability, progress and democratic governance,” India’s Permanent Representative Ruchira Kamboj said.
India’s key bilateral and economic partner Sri Lanka, which experienced a tumultuous year owing to a grave economic crisis, is now waiting for financing assurances from its bilateral creditors, including India and China, to tap support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Sri Lanka’s Central Bank Governor P. Nandalal Weerasinghe told The Hindu in an interview.
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