KATHMANDU(28 Nov 2016) – Nepal is grappling for means to find a durable solution to its political problems which started with the Maoist Conflict in 1996. At this time, Nepal’s major political parties are working to forge consensus on amending the new constitution for the second time in a year after its promulgation. However, southern neighbour India has, as it has been doing over the years, dragged itself in the internal political affairs of next door Nepal.
India has mobilized its overt and covert coercive efforts to inject its hidden interests through Constitutional amendments, projecting itself as a big bully in Nepal. Among the major interests in the open, attempt to permanently seize the political self-determination of Nepal by assuring political control of the regional Madhesi parties through constitution amendment, is being operationalised hindering a durable solution. Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae, while addressing a program to mark 125th birth anniversary of B.R Ambedkar this week in Kathmandu, said the Constitution of Nepal must incorporate “aspirations of all sections of society”, an euphemism to guarantee disproportionate political control of the Madhesi parties, which India thinks represent the Madhesi population of Nepal’s south. Though India’s reservation with the new constitution of Nepal is not new, the ambassador’s remarks at this critical political juncture are not diplomatic at all. Simply, these remark hurt Nepali people’s sentiments.
Many in Nepal have taken the envoy’s remarks as ‘nasty Indian design’ to inoculate hidden interests of the big neighbour. He went on to suggest Nepal amending the constitution as per the wishes of Madhesi parties. Nepali constitution is purely the domestic affairs of Nepal. Nepali people have every right to implement their constitution in whatever way they want. Nepal promulgated the landmark constitution with an overwhelming participation of lawmakers in the Constituent Assembly. 92 percent of members voted for the Constitution while 86 percent Constituent assembly members took part in the article-wise discussion before endorsement through the CA last year in September. The preliminary draft of the constitution was widely circulated to the people for their opinion. Nepali constitution maintains all the international standards and democratic values.
Even constitutional experts of India have highly spoken of the Nepali Constitution saying that some of the provisions of the new Constitution are far progressive than that of the Indian Constitution. Being an immediate neighbour having open border, India should have whole-heartedly welcomed the constitution. Unfortunately, India committed historic blunder by not doing so. Instead, the southern neighbour imposed a five-month border blockade on the tiny Himalayan nation resulting in acute crisis of petroleum products, medicines and other basic essentials. In the last fifty years, this was the fourth occasion India had imposed blockade on Nepal, expressing displeasure over Nepal’s sovereign decisions. After the crippling blockade was lifted in February last year, it was expected that Indian political leaders might realize their shortcomings and reorient their policy towards Nepal. But recent incidents suggest that the Modi administration is far from reviewing. India is still intervening in Nepal’s constitutional matters so as to creating hurdles in the constitution implementation. Question is: what does India achieve through a politically instable next door neighbour?
Coincidentally, Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae’s statement came on the same day when Nepal’s Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal was consulting with major political stakeholders regarding the key issues of constitution amendment proposal yet to be tabled in the Parliament. People have resented over the draft of the proposal after it was leaked to media a few weeks ago, which included among others, making Hindi one of Nepal’s national languages, although spoken by less than 1 percent population. Indian ambassador Rae vehemently said that India wants to promote Hindi language worldwide. If India wants to have cordial relationship with Nepal, New Delhi should not intervene in the internal matters of Nepal. Nepali political class across the board understands Indian sensitivities with regards to security. If Modi fears of Nepali territory being used against India, the Nepali leadership undoubtedly assures him of curbing such elements. Therefore, New Delhi should stop dictating Nepali on domestic matters. As an experienced diplomat having years of experience in the Indian Foreign Service, Ambassador Rae knows well about his diplomatic limitations and constraints. We hope the ambassador understands what his responsibilities are.