Flag-Pins-India-Nepal_1Neighbors need to rework their positions.Â Implementing the provisions of the Constitution very difficult.Nepal PM says documentÂ progressive without discrimination.Madhesis claim Oli’s visit to India not successful.India and Nepal must have cordial relations with each other.Impartial observers believe Oli government unlikely to last long.Efforts are onÂ to overcome the trust deficit between India andÂ Nepal which had hit rock bottomÂ followingÂ the economic blockade as the Madhesis or plains peopleÂ demanded a more federal framework in the Himalayan nation’s new Constitution. Irritated by the economic blockade for nearly five monthsÂ Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli contemplated visiting China ratherÂ than sticking to theÂ tradition of coming toÂ New Delhi first.At the end of it allÂ Oli’s first sojourn overseas for a week after beingÂ four months in officeÂ was to this country. He madeÂ it clear that he had come to mend the ties and remove misunderstandings.Â In an interface with intellectuals and think tanks,Â Oli said the Constitution promulgated by Nepal is inclusive and that the document is progressive without any kind of discrimination.
He admitted the Constitution might not satisfy everyone since it was a compromise reached between divergent people and groups.His Indian counterpart and host Narendra Modi affirmed that India desires a strong,Â stable and prosperous Nepal for itself andÂ the betterment of South Asia. Similarly, when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj called on Oli she made it clear that India considersÂ itself Nepal’s elder brotherÂ and certainly not its “”big brother”” which isÂ resented by the neighboring country.
No less than nine bilateralÂ agreements were signed.Â Oli concludedÂ his week long visit to IndiaÂ on a high in the third week of February.Â He speciallyÂ acquainted himself withÂ the reconstruction work connected with the massiveÂ earthquake in Gujarat and met captains of industry in Mumbai impressing uponÂ them to invest in Nepal which will be mutually beneficial.Â After resisting the amendments to the Constitution, Oli relented to incorporateÂ some of the demands of the Madhesis. This led to the easing of the blockade after the protesters backed by India called off the stir.
The standoff had an adverse effectÂ on India’sÂ goodwill which had rendered promptÂ assistance to Nepal in the wake ofÂ the devastating earthquake in 2015.Nevertheless, the Madhesis insist that Oli’s visit to India was notÂ a success. The amendments to the Constitution leaves muchÂ to be desired in ensuring the rights of the Madhesis.Â On the other hand RJD’s vice president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh stressed that the Nepal government is trying to “”blackmail India”” by playing the China card. Kathmandu reactedÂ promptly calling it a “”brazen interference in Nepal’s internal affaris.”” Most political parties including those critical of Oli ended up criticizing the Madhesi Front for taking their politics beyond the border.Impartial observers believe that the Oli government is unlikely to last long with New Delhi continuing to be seen as a destabilizing factor.
This has necessitated the two neighbors to re-calibrate their positions.Â Being a landlocked country Nepal’s economic dependence needs no elaboration. This stood out starkly during the economic blockade as 70 per cent of the supplies came from India.Â Â Kathmandu looked towardsÂ China whichÂ expressedÂ its inabilityÂ to bridge the gap because of the extremely difficult terrain by the land route to Nepal.Â Given the exigencies of the situation,Â Kathmandu and New Delhi must haveÂ cordial relations with each other which is in their own interest. In case of political instability in Nepal, the spillover effect is bound to haveÂ an adverse impact in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh having an open border with that country.Â At the same time India and Nepal have to reset theirÂ priorities encompassingÂ the direly needed reconstruction assistance assured by India.
On his part Modi acknowledged that the conclusion of the Constitution writing process is an important achievement. At the same time New Delhi underlined the need for consensus through dialogue with dissenting Madhesis aboutÂ their concerns on Federalism. The onus is clearly on Oli and his Communist party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) without alluding to any brinkmanship which which can have an adverseÂ impact in the long run.Â New DelhiÂ should learnÂ lessons from theÂ recent deterioration inÂ bilateral relations. Tension between the two neighbours also reverberated in the United Nations.Â New Delhi should be well aware that Beijing will tryÂ to capitalize on every friction it has with Kathmandu to wean awayÂ theÂ southern neighbor from India. Considering the deep historic and cultural ties, Kathmandu remains a more convenient neighbor economically and politically.Â Nepal and Oli have to come to terms with a Federal structure by taking India into confidence. Even as heÂ had refused to visit India without the blockade being lifted, Nepal watchers assert that the Constitution is a problematic document in many ways even though it wasÂ voted in favor by 85 per cent in the Constituent Assembly which amounted toÂ 78Â per cent of the electorate being in favour.Â Â As the rights based Constitution has been drafted by politicians rather than a committee of jurists, it will be aÂ difficult document to implement because of the promises it makes including expanding the scope of fundamental rights to cover a whole slew of economic, social and cultural rights. Any number of outstanding issues remain including the citizenship for foreign husbands of Nepali women. It was adopted onÂ September 20Â last year.Fortunately, the blockade ended before the much feared possibility of a hill-versus-plains communal flareup proving once again that the people have more sagacity than the overlords.
Mr. T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. Views expressed are personal.”