At the highest levels in the Government of India, Nepal's new constitution and the manner in which it has been pushed through is being viewed as 'a major problem' that could lead to strife and conflict right across the open border, top sources have said.
Nepal’s top political leadership may not have listened to foreign secretary S Jaishankar’s advice to take dissenting forces on board before constitution promulgation. But Delhi feels that mass protests across the Tarai as well as the police killing of a protester in the bordering town of Birgunj have vindicated its position that Nepali leaders were playing with fire.
Delhi noted the 'promulgation of a constitution', but it refrained from welcoming it on Sunday. The use of the phrase 'a' is seen as significant, for India does not see it as the definitive document it is meant to be.
India is upset with the Nepali political elite’s false assurances to India and amused at its opportunistic use of the ‘nationalism’ card. It is also clear there is no alternative to a substantial review and amendment of the constitution. And it feels there is no durable solution without taking Madhesi, Tharu and Janjati concerns on board. At the moment, no Tarai party has signed the constitution.
India has consistently told Nepali leaders they must strive for the 'widest possible agreement' and a constitution that reflects the aspirations of all regions and sections of society. In repeated meetings, Nepal prime minister Sushil Koirala, former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, Maoist chairman Prachanda, and UML chairman KP Oli - key Kathmandu players - assured India this would happen.
"They gave false assurances, but drafted constitutional provisions which are widely perceived by the Madhesis and Tharus as discriminatory, and went back on some of the more positive gains of the interim constitution," a top government source in Delhi told HT.
These leaders have now sought to play the 'nationalism' card and alleged Indian interference. But sources told HT that the same leaders have sent messages to India to use its influence with Madhesi leaders to call off protests. "Many have also sought support for their personal power ambitions. They want our interference as long as we do what they want. We see through the game," the source added.