Ever since the Hindutva party BJP came to power in India, it has been making efforts to bring the Himalayan kingdom Nepal under Indian control, politically and diplomatically without any significant outcomes. Bilateral relations have remained mild-to-cold.
Violence has returned to Nepal, already reeling under devastation from the April 25 quake and acute shortage of essential goods like fuel and LPG due to a two month-long blockade of key border trade points with India by Madhesis. The Indian-origin inhabitants of Nepal’s Terai region, Madhesis are protesting against division of their ancestral homeland under the new Constitution and demanding better representation in the Parliament.
As talks between the agitating Madhesis and the government are in progress hopes are expressed for finding amicable solution to political standoff between ruling dispensation and opposition. Nepal’s main opposition party Nepali Congress and the agitating group of Indian-origin Madhesis have agreed to quickly resolve the current political crisis due to the ongoing blockade of key border trade points with India.
Calling on the agitating Madhes-based parties to end their protests, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli assured that the Constitution would be amended and provincial borders redrawn on the basis of consensus among all to address the demands of the agitating parties. Invoking the Panchsheel principles, Oli last month called on India to “immediately lift the undeclared blockade” imposed on Nepal that would help boost bilateral ties amid the recent political crisis over the country’s new Constitution. The Panchsheel doctrine is a set of principles to govern relations between states. Their first formal codification in treaty form was an agreement between China and India in 1954. Oli also asked neighboring countries “to honour Nepal’s territorial integrity, national sovereignty and independence”.
The Constitution does not discriminate between people on the basis of caste, region or any other way, he said adding that the national charter was not discriminatory. He said the unofficial blockade imposed by India has created a humanitarian crisis in Nepal obstructing supplies of life-saving medicines and fuel.
India’s Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae expressed hope that the political deadlock in the Himalayan nation over the new Constitution would soon end. Speaking at an interaction program on Nepal-India relations, Ranjit Rae said India is ready to assist Nepal in its development process amid the ongoing political crisis. Rae pointed out that the relations between Nepal and India are based on people-to-people ties and nothing can spoil it and stressed on the need to end current political impasse in the country by addressing the demands of the Madhesi community and help strengthen Nepal-India ties, at a time when the relations have reached an all-time low.
Senior journalist Mathawar Singh Basnet said India should mediate between the government and the agitating parties to resolve the issue. He said India should also take the initiative to end the deadlock rising from promulgation of the new Constitution, which is a major component of Nepals peace process. Many leaders have underlined the need to follow track-two diplomacy to improve relations between Nepal and India which have been affected due to the transport blockade.
The demarcation of federal provinces should not be done only on the basis of geography as allocation of resources also plays a crucial role, former Nepal diplomat Balbahadur Kunwar said, adding if the southern plains are completely separated from the hilly regions, people residing in the less resourceful hilly region cannot make progress.
Construction of hydropower development projects will be expedited and use of electric vehicles will be established in the capital city in the near future to lessen foreign dependency on energy.
Hospitals have run out of medicines and blood bags for emergency and people are unable to cook food due to the shortage of cooking gas as a result of the transport blockade. India has firmly denied imposing the blockade, saying truck drivers are concerned for their safety after violent protests against Nepal’s new Constitution in which over 40 people were killed.
Oli said the government has now realized it was Nepal’s weakness to depend only on India for supplies of essentials. Now the government would work to diversify trade and promote renewable alternative energies.
Last month, Nepal signed a memorandum of understanding with China to import fuel, ending India’s four-decade supply monopoly.
Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal Kamal Thapa sought India’s help in easing the supplies of essentials like LPG and fuel in the landlocked country and told Rae that Nepal is heading towards a humanitarian crisis due to the ongoing blockade.
The Nepali Congress (NC) and representatives of the United Madhesi Democratic Front (UMDF) met at NC President Sushil Koirala’s residence at Maharjgunj on December 19. During the meeting, they held discussions on contemporary issues and the ongoing unrest in the Terai region, and agreed to resolve the current political crisis as soon as possible.
The NC urged the front to support resolving the crisis through the Constitution amendment process as the bill related to the same has been tabled in the Parliament. The party also asked the front to forge consensus on the bill as it could be revised by including the front’s demands.
In response, the Front asked for a clear roadmap of NC in revising the demarcation of provinces, citing that the bill could not address the delineation issues. Madhesis, the Indian-origin inhabitants of the Terai region are agitating over the new Constitution demanding more representation. They are also protesting division of their ancestral homeland under the seven-province structure and have led an ongoing blockade of key border trade points with India.
According to NC spokesperson Dilendra Badu, a meeting discussed ways to address the demands of the front and Nepali Congress urged the front to be responsible to sort out the problem through dialogue and consensus. Terai-Madhes Democratic Party spokesperson Sarbendra Nath Shukla said that they held discussions with NC on the issues related to constitution amendment.
The current political situation following talks means a possible return to normalcy in Nepal.