Thursday, January 27, 2022

India and Nepal: A constitutional crisis?

With an apparent stand-off on the issue between India and Nepal, much will now depend on the sagacity and wisdom of the top Nepal’s political parties.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
September 23, 2015 12:54:36 pm
modi-koirala-759 Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala.

Very few bilateral ties have seen the kind of personal investment of time, energy and resources by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the one with Nepal.

The PM made one of his first bilateral visits to India’s neighbourhood in August last year to Nepal — within a week of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visiting Kathmandu.

He returned to Kathmandu in November last year — to attend the SAARC summit — and had a detailed bilateral engagement with the entire spectrum of Nepal’s political leadership.

When the earthquake shook Nepal in April this year and the Himalayan country’s PM could not be contacted — he was overseas — Modi did not stand on ceremony and called up Nepal’s President to offer him unconditional assistance for rescue and relief. Within hours, the Indian disaster management machinery was set in motion to assist Nepal, followed by a joint briefing sometimes with as many as four secretary-rank officials to give an update on the rescue ops.

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While, this looked like chest-thumping of sorts which led to criticism of India and its media focusing on only the Indian rescue operations, the alacrity of the response received overwhelming gratitude and kudos from all.

So, when on Sunday, Nepal promulgated its Constitution — ignoring all the advice from the Indian government which had been patiently engaging all top political leaders in Nepal — it came as a huge disappointment to the Modi government. Modi had repeatedly asked the Nepalese political class to be “flexible” and “broad-based” in its approach, and to not bulldoze its way through with the brute strength of a majority.


It has now asked the Nepalese government to make seven changes in its Constitution. New Delhi has put its weight behind the Madhesi and Janjati population which it says has been ignored and whose aspirations as “equal citizens” have not been fulfilled in the newly-promulgated Constitution. The impact of the new Constitution is already being felt in the violence, curfew, protests and loss of lives in the last few weeks.

With an apparent stand-off on the issue between the two countries, much will now depend on the sagacity and wisdom of the top Nepal’s political parties. While some argue that the current Indian attitude will only harden anti-Indian sentiments and make it closer to China, Nepal’s geography and history point to India’s major role in the development of Nepal.

The Indian establishment too must remain calm and patient at this hour, since dictating terms will only worsen the situation. It has to move in quickly and quash fears of “blockade” or “recall of ambassador” and other such rumours doing the rounds in Kathmandu for the last few days.

Both sides need to give each other political space so that the current deadlock is resolved.

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