Saturday, October 3, 2015

India's discomfort in Nepal!

Nepal has been facing an unprecedented shortage of fuel and essential goods - supplied through India - because of the agitation by its people on its southern border. The southern region spread across the Himalayan foothills, also known as the 'Terai', has a population that consists of the socially underprivileged Madhesis and the Janajatis(the indigenous people).

The Madhesis are Indian origin Nepalese. The distrust with which the Madhesis have been traditionally viewed has a history of its own. The undermentioned points would illuminate that factor:-

     (a) Nepalese politicians cite the Madhesis' 'dhoti-kurta' dress as proof of their not being
          Nepalese enough!
     (b) The people of the terai look towards India - akin to the Tamils of Sri Lanka - as the
           protector of their interests.

The Run Up to the Agitation.

  * It all began with the issuance of the new Constitution - while seeking to turn Nepal into a secular
     democratic Republic - that does not adequately address the concerns of the Madhesis.

  * Nepal has had 6 Constitutions and this is the 7th iteration.

  * The problem has not been in the writing but the ownership. None of the previous Constitutions
     have been owned by all the sections of the society/political forces and hence, haven't been

  * All the previous ones were written by the monarch but this has been prepared by the elected
     people in the Constituent Assembly.

  * The new Constitution has been framed in a manner that ensures the dominance of the traditional
     political elites - the upper caste people of the hills!

Consider the following.

  (a) India has been concerned enough to convey the Madhesis' apprehensions to the Nepalese
       leadership urging it to build a national consensus so that the pluralistic polity that Nepal
       aspires to be was all inclusive.

  (b) This should have been done while the Constitution was in its draft form and the parleys
        should have been carried out through a quiet and efficient diplomacy. Perhaps, the outgoing
        government had other things to handle resulting in an inadequate impetus.

   (c) The invitation of the Nepalese PM to PM Modi's swearing in along with those of the other
         SAARC nations and his first foreign visit to the Himalayan nation had promised a robust
         relationship between the two countries. The recent high profile visit of our Foreign Secretary
         as the PM's special envoy did not achieve much.

   (d) Even assuming that the Nepalese leaders had wanted to accommodate the Indian viewpoint,
         they'd have been accused of acting under foreign pressure!

   (e) There are enough India-baiters in Kathmandu who would pounce on every opportunity to show
         India in poor light.


Today, the Madhesis are agitating and the supply lines to the north have been cut off by the agitators and yet, India is getting the blame for forcing an economic blockade!


And the aftermath?

   (a) Whipping up anti-India sentiment, the telecast of 42 Indian television channels has been blocked
         in retaliation to the imagined economic blockade.
   (b) Armed commandos have to guard the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.

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