India-Nepal try overcoming trust deficit - The India Saga



India-Nepal try overcoming trust deficit

“ Flag-Pins-India-Nepal_1Neighbors need to rework their positions. Implementing the provisions of the Constitution very difficult.Nepal PM says document progressive without discrimination.Madhesis claim…

India-Nepal try overcoming trust deficit

Flag-Pins-India-Nepal_1Neighbors need to rework their positions.àImplementing the provisions of the Constitution very difficult.Nepal PM says documentàprogressive 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 onàto overcome the trust deficit between India andàNepal which had hit rock bottomàfollowingàthe economic blockade as the Madhesis or plains peopleàdemanded a more federal framework in the Himalayan nation’s new Constitution. Irritated by the economic blockade for nearly five monthsàPrime Minister K P Sharma Oli contemplated visiting China ratheràthan sticking to theàtradition of coming toàNew Delhi first.At the end of it allàOli’s first sojourn overseas for a week after beingàfour months in officeàwas to this country. He madeàit clear that he had come to mend the ties and remove misunderstandings.àIn an interface with intellectuals and think tanks,àOli 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,àstable and prosperous Nepal for itself andàthe betterment of South Asia. Similarly, when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj called on Oli she made it clear that India considersàitself Nepal’s elder brotheràand certainly not its “”big brother”” which isàresented by the neighboring country.

No less than nine bilateralàagreements were signed.àOli concludedàhis week long visit to Indiaàon a high in the third week of February.àHe speciallyàacquainted himself withàthe reconstruction work connected with the massiveàearthquake in Gujarat and met captains of industry in Mumbai impressing uponàthem to invest in Nepal which will be mutually beneficial.àAfter resisting the amendments to the Constitution, Oli relented to incorporateàsome 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 effectàon India’sàgoodwill which had rendered promptàassistance to Nepal in the wake ofàthe devastating earthquake in 2015.Nevertheless, the Madhesis insist that Oli’s visit to India was notàa success. The amendments to the Constitution leaves muchàto be desired in ensuring the rights of the Madhesis.àOn 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 reactedàpromptly 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.àBeing 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.ààKathmandu looked towardsàChina whichàexpressedàits inabilityàto bridge the gap because of the extremely difficult terrain by the land route to Nepal.àGiven the exigencies of the situation,àKathmandu and New Delhi must haveàcordial relations with each other which is in their own interest. In case of political instability in Nepal, the spillover effect is bound to haveàan adverse impact in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh having an open border with that country.àAt the same time India and Nepal have to reset theiràpriorities encompassingàthe 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 aboutàtheir 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 adverseàimpact in the long run.àNew Delhiàshould learnàlessons from theàrecent deterioration inàbilateral relations. Tension between the two neighbours also reverberated in the United Nations.àNew Delhi should be well aware that Beijing will tryàto capitalize on every friction it has with Kathmandu to wean awayàtheàsouthern neighbor from India. Considering the deep historic and cultural ties, Kathmandu remains a more convenient neighbor economically and politically.àNepal and Oli have to come to terms with a Federal structure by taking India into confidence. Even as heàhad 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 wasàvoted in favor by 85 per cent in the Constituent Assembly which amounted toà78àper cent of the electorate being in favour.ààAs the rights based Constitution has been drafted by politicians rather than a committee of jurists, it will be aàdifficult 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 onàSeptember 20àlast 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.