UK gives warm shoulder to India’s economic blockade in Nepal


Nepal Foreign Affairs (Kathmandu, Nov. 14 )--The United Kingdom has given a warm shoulder to ongoing economic blockade imposed by India in Nepal.

During a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in London, UK Prime Minister David Cameron accepted the India’s position on Nepal’s political turmoil after India imposed economic blockade in Nepal following the promulgation of new constitution on Sept 20.

Expressing a deep dissatisfaction on the new constitution adopted by the two-thirds majority of Constituent Assembly in Nepal, New Delhi decided to stop supplies of fuel and essential commodities to Nepal including medicines. This has created a serious humanitarian crisis in Nepal with acute shortage of fuel and essential commodities.

In a joint statement following the prime ministerial talks between in London, the two countries have said “The two Prime Ministers stressed the importance of a lasting and inclusive constitutional settlement in Nepal that will address the remaining areas of concern and promote political stability and economic growth.”

According to sources, India has conveyed a precondition to Nepal before lifting the economic blockade that Nepal must amend the constitution to accommodate the demands of agitating Madhesis—many of them—who were migrated to Nepal from the Indian states of Bihar and some other places some decades back and obtained naturalized citizenship in Terai region. The Madhesis who are inhabitants of Terai region are opposing to grant citizenship by descent to children of Nepali girls married to Indian national. However, India origin of Madhesis are demanding granting citizenship by descent to children of Nepali girls married to Indian national, which itself is a threat to Nepal’s nationality.

“The statement explicitly talks about the inclusive constitutional settlement in Nepal. It means, the UK also believes that Nepal constitution should be amended immediately to address the concerns of Madhesi parties to get peace and political stability in Nepal,” an official at the Prime Minister’s Office told NFA.

A senior Nepali government official told NFA that the UK formally accepted the Indian position in Nepal regarding ongoing political crisis with the joint statement during Modi’s trip to UK.

“We had a hope that the UK, as our one of the oldest friends, will stand against India’s ongoing deliberate economic blockade in Nepal,” the official said adding, “We are in delicate situation due to the blockade by India and approaching toward a humanitarian crisis in couple of weeks. The UK has also stressing on constitutional amendments in our new constitution. The UK seems to have been misled by Modi and his co.”

It is worthy to note here that India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Indian newspaper Mail Today last month that 10 million Indian nationals are currently living in Terai region of Nepal and India was concerned over  their rights in Nepal’s constitution.

The joint statement issued by UK and India further said that the two prime ministers also expressed hope that the National Reconstruction Authority will begin to function as soon as possible to facilitate post-earthquake reconstruction.

According to Indian Newspaper Indian Express those amendments in Nepal’s new constitution sought by India were as follows:

* Article 63 (3) of the Interim Constitution provided electoral constituencies based on population, geography and special characteristics, “and in the case of Madhes on the basis of percentage of population”. Under this provision, Madhes, with more than 50 per cent of the population, got 50 per cent of seats in Parliament. The latter phrase has been omitted in Article 84 of the new Constitution. “It needs to be re-inserted so that Madhes continues to have electoral constituencies in proportion to its population,” a government source told The Indian Express.

* In Article 21 of the Interim Constitution, it was mentioned that various groups would have “the right to participate in state structures on the basis of principles of proportional inclusion”. In the new Constitution (Article 42), the word “proportional” has been dropped — Delhi wants it re-inserted.

* Article 283 of the Constitution states that only citizens by descent will be entitled to hold the posts of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly, Head of Province, Chief Minister, Speaker of Provincial Assembly and Chief of Security Bodies. This clause is seen as discriminatory for the large number of Madhesis who have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalisation. Delhi says this should be amended to include citizenship by birth or naturalisation.

* Article 86 of the new Constitution states that National Assembly will comprise 8 members from each of 7 States and 3 nominated members. Madhesi parties want representation in National Assembly to be based on population of the Provinces. This, Delhi says, should be done to address concerns.

* Five disputed districts of Kanchanpur, Kailali, Sunsari, Jhapa and Morang: Based on the majority of the population, these districts or parts of them may be included in the neighbouring Madhes Provinces.

* Article 154 of the Interim Constitution provided for delineation of electoral constituencies every 10 years. This has been increased to 20 years in Article 281 of the new Constitution. Echoing the Madhesi parties, India wants this restored to 10 years.

* Article 11(6) states that a foreign woman married to a Nepali citizen may acquire naturalised citizenship of Nepal as provided for in a federal law. Madhesi parties want acquisition of naturalised citizenship to be automatic on application. This also finds favour with Delhi.

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