Though Dahal has publicly said his upcoming visit is focused on strengthening bilateral ties that will be instrumental in accelerating Nepal’s development endeavours, foreign policy pundits say political message will be key when he meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top leaders during his three-day trip.
For Dahal, who hopes to become the next prime minister as well as the party chairman through the party’s next general convention, the trips are significant as he would need to demonstrate diplomatic maturity with both neighbours—India and China—so he can be seen as someone they can count on for continued support and trust.
After concluding his visit to India, Dahal will fly to Beijing on September 15. Details of who he will meet in Beijing have not been revealed.
Dahal’s trip to both countries marks the first time a senior Nepal Communist Party leader will interact with the senior foreign leadership since the two political parties united as a single group earlier this year.
Two immediate and important issues Dahal will have to confront in New Delhi are Nepal’s growing engagement with China, his own political ambition, and how he perceives the Oli administration.
Dahal has often used the word “trilateral cooperation” to discuss potential partnership among Nepal, India,
and China but New Delhi has not shown any interest in entering into such a partnership yet.
Ahead of his India visit, some NCP leaders have advised him to project himself as the future party leader whom both Indian and Chinese leaders can rely on—making him an almost unavoidable alternative to Oli.
Party leaders have also urged Dahal to take up the issue of early acceptance and execution of the report prepared by the Eminent Persons’ Group on Nepal-India Relations that India wants to not release until its 2019 general elections. The EPG has already prepared and submitted its report, suggesting both the countries replacement of the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship and recommended measures to revisit how both sides can work on areas like the open border.
“Nepal wants early implementation of the EPG recommendations,” said NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha. “For India, which aims to be a global and regional power, it is not good to hold up the report for long.”
Among the high-level meetings in Delhi, Dahal is expected to have a packed Friday schedule, as he meets Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the morning, hold a luncheon meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and in the evening, sit down with Indian Prime Minister Modi.
“This is the continuity of undertaking bilateral visits by our senior leaders to the neighbouring countries for strengthening the relations,” said Rajan Bhattarai, another NCP leader. “That’s all this should be seen as.”
Dahal will hold talks with Indian leaders on reviving the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, an NCP leader said.