Commentary : Better late than never


Nepal Foreign Affairs, 11 June –  The usually chattering International community’s response to Nepal’s constitutional agreement comes late and little. Nepal’s international friends must recognize the importance of the new constitution in Nepal and should keep encouraging the political parties, not meddle into it.

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On 8th of June 2015, Nepal’s political parties signed the 16-point agreement on constitutional issues, paving way to end a political transition prolonged for about eight years.

Before this breakthrough, unable to find meeting point on several issues related to federalism, form of government, electoral system, and judiciary in the future set up of the country, political parties appeared to dig their feet into what could be called a never-ending political fight, pushing Nepal towards the precipice of turmoil. During this period, the international community and the United Nations had jointly urged Nepal’s political parties to unite and put their best foot forward for the new constitution. This was commendable.

The manner in which the 16-point agreement came to the fore was no less than a surprise. The country was just ravaged by two destructive earthquakes on April 25 and May 12, the entire world was watching how political events would unfold and the political class also appeared to be busy in managing the task of post-quake reconstruction. Many in Nepal though a political breakthrough would bring a welcome respite from an eternal squabbling; but no one, including many of Nepal’s international friends, believed it was happening any time soon.

More surprising is, however, the response of the international community to the 16-point agreement, which is lukewarm and uninspiring. It appears that until the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon took the lead to welcome it, they failed to recognize the historic value of the agreement or had doubts regarding its durability.

This attitude was apparently reflected in the meeting of the foreign ambassadors in Kathmandu on June 10. Coordinated by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Nepal Jamie McGoldrick, the meeting was represented at the highest level by all diplomatic missions in Kathmandu, including India and China. The meeting, on behalf of the international community, eventually published a statement welcoming the agreement on constitution. It was, of course, the situation of better late than never. But in the past, the international community jumped in even when it was unnecessary and even when the issues were relatively petty.

India’s cautious approach to the agreement, expressed from Lainchour, was the result of the fear of its closest allies of the past, particularly Rajendra Mahato and Mahantha Thakur, being left out. What the bureaucracy fails to see is the fight of its Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the regional parties in domestic India. What it has also failed to see it its own Prime Minister’s continuous call to the people to rise above parochial regional and communal lines. Modi has so far practiced what he has preached. The bureaucracy must fall in line.

By the way, after India’s Foreign Minister Sushama Swaraj welcomed the agreement while receiving in the South Block Nepal’s Finance Minister Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat on June 10, Lainchour’s caution has lost relevance. Denmark, recently supporting narrow regionalism in Nepal’s Terai, also expressed concern, which was highly deplorable.

The situation has actually moved further ahead since the June 8 agreement. On 10th June, the parties have agreed on a citizenship provision through mother, long supported by the international community as well. They also agreed on a reformed parliamentary system, making it mandatory to have an alternative ready at the time of “Constructive Vote of Confidence”.

Nepal’s international friends must recognize the importance of the new constitution in Nepal and should keep encouraging the political parties, not meddle into it.

 

 

 

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