Nepal Foreign Affairs (KATHMANDU November 23) – When this article is being written, two glimmers of hope have appeared in the horizon: India wants a real and serious “course correction” with regards to Nepal, positively engaging with current government; and Prime Minister KP Oli has promised necessary flexibility in addressing certain demands of agitating groups. Talks have restarted.
It has given a mixed situation on the ground. Nepal and India have reached out to one another through several track-II channels since Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Thapa’s visit to Delhi last month. Province-2 agitation has exacerbated; 4 people in Saptari have died in the fresh bout of violence; ambulances are attacked; passenger buses have faced huge security problem along the east-west highway. Indian Ambassador Ranajit Rae’s voice has somewhat mellowed, with his tone more conciliatory than usual, if his interview with the Kantipur Television on 23 November is any indication.
After his lunch meeting with the Western Ambassadors on 20th November and unexpectedly being lectured by a world power that “India has a responsibility in the neighborhood (before leaping at the global stage),” Ambassador Rae must have discovered that the West in Nepal is no longer a gullible lot, which could, in the past, be talked down, ignored or put aside at convenience. When geopolitics plays out, India would be shamed. But Nepal is losing more, be its economy, human cost or time lost.
At the same time, there is also a small hardline minority in New Delhi, which has some clout in the current dispensation. It tends to put UML and Maoists together in a same basket as communists, refusing to see UML’s democratic credentials and how the party has worked with India in the past.
This group believes toppling the current UML-led government, even if by a coup, should be India’s exit strategy of the current Nepal mess. This is a wrong remedy. Pursuing this path would be a grave mistake on part of India. Inaction by Prime Minister KP Oli, who has emerged as the most powerful leader in Nepali politics after 2006, has a danger of Delhi’s constructive majority, playing into the hands of these hardliners.
In this context, we are fully aware that many readers and friends in India would like to explain this article as being anti-Indian one. We beg to differ. This is anti-blockade and just intends to bring out the truths to the world. Acknowledging truths would be the first step towards correcting the course that both sides have wanted at this stage. Please read this article in the context of our last week piece: (www.nepalforeignaffairs.com/demystifying-indian-propaganda-on-madhes/ )
Continuing the rampage in its usual bullying spree, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has been refusing India’s blockade on Nepal. Its Spokesperson has been constantly saying that Nepal should talk to its “own” people, instead of looking for solutions in Delhi.
Well, he is partially right here. Nepal should definitely talk to its own people, but Delhi should stop taking sides in Nepal’s internal matters. So far, for the record of MEA, tens of rounds of talks have taken place without producing much result. This is because of India’s involvement from the side of the Madhesi parties, its initial funding as well as moral and “human” support for agitation.
To bolster their argument, what the Indian government and media tells the world is that all entry points in the Indo-Nepal borders are blocked. This is wrong.
There are 22 border checkpoints from where trucks can enter Nepal daily. Among them, Birgunj accounts for 60% total trade movement with Nepal. Given that this point is blocked by the agitators, the goods must have been rerouted from other entry points as India itself suggested during the visit of Nepal’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Thapa’s visit to Delhi. (Indian Express, 19th October: Nepal reaches out, India says it will reroute trucks. www.indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/nepal-constitutional-crisis-dy-pm-kamal-thapa-meets-sushma-swaraj/ ) Unfortunately, this was never followed up by action. Immediately after this visit, India’s ambassador in Kathmandu organized a press meet to announce difficulty in re-routing trucks. Other main entry points of Jogbani, Panitanki, Rupaidiha, Gaddachowki and Sunauli have no protests. Unless blockade, there is no reason why trucks have to line up in the Indian side of the border in these entry-points (India has halted the everyday goods Nepal needs to survive:www.buzzfeed.com/anupkaphle/india-has-halted-the-everyday-goods-nepal-needs-to-survive#.hvr43zPLMo ).
Another wrong argument Indian side presents all the time is that Mr. Ashish Ram, the Indian citizen killed in police firing on 3nd November, was innocent.
Human deaths are regrettable but what they have to see is a fact that because of the cross-border movement of agitators along the open border, and also because the No Man’s Land of the border between the two countries was allowed by the Indian side to be used as the “reinforcement station” of agitation, several Indian citizens participated in the demonstration. (This has stopped after Bihar elections). Ashish Ram was one of them. Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs clearly told the same day that he was hurling “petrol bomb” at Nepal police. A video link posted by journalist Bhushan Yadav proves this and makes the Indian statement null and void (See his report here: www.kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2015-11-03/protesters-defy-curfew-in-birgunj-hurl-petrol-bomb-two-injured.html ). Same Indian lie was, however, propagated by a journalist Jyoti Malhotra as well in her report in Daily Mail, UK. (www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-3302526/It-s-time-Nepal-talk-Madhesis.html ).
We regret the death of Mr. Ram and urge Nepal government to provide his family with the same amount of financial compensation that the kins of the deads in Madhes Andolan are given. (We have countered several of Jyoti’s lies in the part 1 of this piece).
It is also advisable for Nepal government to launch a judicial probe into the deaths of Madhes agitation.
Next blatant lie that is being spread by the Indian side is that the Janajatis of Nepal have rejected the new constitution.
A representative Indian sentiment on this is Mr Nihar Nayak’s commenton the website of the Institute of Defense and Security Analysis (IDSA). (www.idsa.in/idsacomments/PostConstitutionShiversinNepalandIndiasResponse_nnayak_280915 )
Not only he, several Indian diplomats and former ambassadors to Kathmandu have lavishly written this. But they are totally wrong. This constitution was voted for by every Janajati member, 120, of the Constituent Assembly (Read this: www.saddahaq.com/highlights-of-constitution-of-nepal-2072 ). Only a small group that lost elections badly and a small section of discreditedJanajati academics, wrote against the constitution. They tried to resurrect a Janajati movement but failed so badly that they are looking for place to hide at the moment.
Besides, India’s direct involvement in Madhes agitation pushed all Janajati groups away from the protests. The Limbuwan groups of the east called off their agitation knowing this, and some of them are now in talks to unite with CPN-UML.
Having said this, we urge Nepal government to reach out to India and work urgently to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. At the same time efforts must be made to address the genuine concerns of the province-2 parties. Out of several demands they have forwarded, only a few have a “genuine” ground. Lying about the constitution and skewing about the facts won’t help.