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Nepal: Battles of the new republic

As Nepal witnesses a political deadlock over the formation of a new constitution, the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 session ‘Nepal: In Search of a Constitution’ discussed the significance of the constitution for India’s neighbour and the hurdles it faces.

books Updated: Jan 31, 2015 13:22 IST
Danish Raza
Prashant-Jha-Journalist-and-author-of-Battles-of-The-New-Republic-The-contemporary-History-of-Nepal
Prashant-Jha-Journalist-and-author-of-Battles-of-The-New-Republic-The-contemporary-History-of-Nepal

As Nepal witnesses a political deadlock over the formation of a new constitution, the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 session ‘Nepal: In Search of a Constitution’ discussed the significance of the constitution for India’s neighbour and the hurdles it faces.



The panel had Prashant Jha, journalist and author of ‘Battles of The New Republic: The contemporary History of Nepal’ in conversation with scholar Pushpesh Pant and American writer Kai Bird.



Talking about what the constitution means for citizens of Nepal, Jha said that while it may not be the one point solution to all of Nepal’s socio-political issues, it is the only way forward. "It will bring in a systematic stability in Nepal. It will be the convergence of various social and political groups in that country," he said. He was responding to Pushpesh Pant who asked how far having a constitution would help Nepal implementing democracy. "One of the fundamental issues is that people in Nepal, with multiple ethnicities, have not been able to write their own social contract. This is their chance," Jha added.



Last August, Narendra Modi became the first prime minister to visit Nepal in 17 years, indicating that the country was high on India’s foreign policy agenda. His 40-minute address to the Parliament in Kathmandu was a big leap in strengthening relations between the two countries, observed foreign policy experts. "His speech did for Nepalis what other governments could not achieve in decades," said Jha, commenting on what to expect from the current government regarding the prospects of India- Nepal relations.



Modi’s visit to the Himalayan Kingdom was significant specifically as it helped put to rest Nepali insecurities regarding India. "A lot of Nepalis doubt if India thinks of Nepal as a sovereign state. Modi said it was a sovereign state. He also said it the land where Budhha was born. These are small gestures but matter a lot if you want them to have a positive attitude towards India," said Jha.



With the BJP in power in India, there is an apprehension that right wing organisations will support fringe groups in Nepal that want it declared a Hindu nation. Jha said that the Indian government is dealing tacitly with this issue. While there is a revived sense of enthusiasm among the RSS cadre in Nepal, the government is apparently not keen to use diplomatic channels to push this agenda. "When external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Nepal for three days in August, she expressed that she had taken an oath under a secular constitution and that she was into that business," said Jha.