Nepal ended its civil war a decade ago. But expectations of subsequent progress towards a stable if tumultuous democratic polity have been belied. True, the civil war has shown no signs of resuming though there remain a few hardline fragments of the Nepal Maoist movement who still talk of going
back to the forests and resuming their unfinished revolution. It is also true that barring a catastrophic collapse of the social and political environment, it is unlikely that the Nepalese monarchy and the feudal structure that held back the country for so long will return. However, there can be no doubt that, as the continuing crisis over the completion of the constitution is showing, Nepal has a last-mile problem and traversing this last bit of institution-building is proving much more difficult than anyone had expected.
Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav was recently in New Delhi, in part to try and force the bickering political parties at home to put together a national unity government to ease the way to new elections next April. This unity is, however, not the strong point of Nepal's pantheon of political leaders and parties. There is a certain circularity in the problems the country is facing. The constituent assembly is in limbo. A new parliament could, in theory, restart the constitution-writing process. But the legitimacy to put a new parliament in place is questioned by two of the largest political formations. And the lack of a constitution is cited as the basis for this legitimacy problem.
New Delhi has taken the view that it must not attempt to overtly influence the process given the strong, almost paranoid, response of many Nepalese to any intrusion by New Delhi. This probably remains the best policy to take. The 2002 agreement ending the civil war still holds and the mainstreaming of Maoist guerrillas continues apace. There is little India could do to take the process forward without adding more fuel to the fire. The Nepalese, whose country is in many ways a miniature version of India's own functioning anarchy, should believe they are making their own decisions. Letting them experience an extended crisis may be the best way to help them arrive at the common decisions that have so far evaded them.
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