LSTV | Public Forum | India – Nepal Ties


Context: PM K.P. Oli’s 6 days B/L visit to India

Q. What is the significance of this visit?

  • 1. This will be his first B/L visit since assuming office, immense symbolic value in the sense that Nepal values relationship with India.
  • 2. The visit comes in the backdrop of Madhesis ending their crippling protests and blockade that had soured the bilateral ties. It would be thus aimed at bringing ties back on track.

Q. What was the reason for blockade?

Madhesis living in plains area adjoining open border with India felt the constitution of Nepal gave them a raw deal.

Some important points of contention were-

  • 1. Most important is demarcation of federal provinces. MAdhesi demand is for 1 Madhesh 1 pradesh but what they got in return was gerrymandering of provinces.
  • 2. Madhesis sought representation on the basis of population but in interim constitution population weightage was diluted in favour of area.
  • 3. They demanded more seats on the basis of proportional representation but got lesser seats under it.
  • 4. only citizens by descent will be entitled to hold the posts of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and other top posts. It will discriminate against Madhesis who have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalisation.
  • 5.Foreign woman married to Nepali citizen will not acquire automatic citizenship.  Again against the interest of Madhesis.

In effect hitherto marginalized Madhesi community was not given its due under the democratic set up. to pressurize the ruling elite, they blockaded the trade routes.

Q. In this internal political battle, why was India blamed?

  • Nepali nationalism is based on anti Indianism and ruling elites have used it to hide their own inadequacies.
  • Nepal charges that India is tacitly supporting Madhesis in blockade while we have always maintained that it is an internal issue which has to be politically resolved.
  • we have conveyed our concerns which were needed to be conveyed for any conflict in tarai spills over into India across the open border.

Q. So why has protest been called off now? Have Madhesis achieved their aims?

Sustaining protest for such a long time is very difficult. So a combination of factors led to withdrawal of blockade

  • 1. Passing of  2 constitution amendment bills which addresses two key demands of the Madhesis – proportionate representation and seat allocation in the Parliament on the basis of population.
  • 2. Fatigue
  • 3. Internal divisions in Madhesi morcha
  • 4. Willingness of govt to concede more demands

But it’s only a temporary lull. Key demand of demarcation of federal provinces has to be met, otherwise movement will resurrect.

Whole Madhesh is radically politicized like never before.

Q. In this whole episode, India Nepal ties have taken a beating. What did India do wrong?

As earlier stated, Nepali nationalism is based on anti Indianism.

With the advantage of  hindsight it can be said that, sending of foreign secretary just before promulgation of constitution was a wrong move. It gave lever to Nepal to tell the world that India is behaving like a big brother, interfering in internal affairs while on the Indian side critics claimed New Delhi was sleeping till then.

Overall India did not do much wrong. It conveyed its concerns which were needed to be conveyed.

Q. What’s the way forward? How can India respond without being seen as intrusive? What about China card that Nepal plays?

India needs to stay course. Any trouble in Tarai is not in our long term interest, we need to convince Nepal with back channel diplomacy that it’s in their own interest.

China card is past its expiry date. Nepal can not fight geography. At the same time we need to be mindful of  Nepali sensitivities.

Q. Finally what is expected from the visit?

1. 2 MOUs operationalising 1b$ of credit already announced and 1b$ for earthquake assistance.

2. Hopefully genuine honest stock taking exercise will be done and relationship will be put on even keel.

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By Dr V

Doctor by Training | AIIMSONIAN | Factually correct, Politically not so much | Opinionated? Yes!


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