Constitution amendment: India tells Nepal to bring Madhesis on board

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 22, 2015 23:19 IST
Nepalese policemen use tear gas to disperse ethnic Madhesi protesters in Gaur, a town about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Kathmandu, Nepal, Sunday, Dec.20, 2015. (AP)

A day after India welcomed the Nepal cabinet proposal to address Madhesi concerns as a basis for resolving the current impasse, New Delhi has suggested to Nepal that the big parties should not pass any constitutional amendments ‘unilaterally’. It has also suggested that the parties should first bring the Madhesi parties on board, sources told HT.

The message is intended to clear any confusion about the Indian statement on Monday, as well as suggest constructively ways to ensure a win-win situation. With the Nepal government officially sounding out and then presenting its proposal to New Delhi, India has emerged as the de facto facilitator in the current Nepal crisis.

The Nepal cabinet had, on Sunday, committed to passing two amendments to ensure Madhesi inclusion and political representation and creating a political mechanism to determine the question of federal demarcation. India welcomed the development, but the Madhesi parties officially rejected the proposal on Tuesday, calling it ‘vague, unclear and visionless’. They also declared they would continue their agitation in Tarai, which has now crossed 130 days.

Read | Nepal proposes deal to amend constitution, Madhesis reject it as ‘drama’

Indian officials, top official sources told HT, spoke to Nepali government interlocutors on Tuesday and conveyed three messages.

One, they said that the Indian statement should be read as a welcome of ‘the process of dialogue, the framework of dialogue and not the substance of the resolution’. India, officials told HT, is endorsing the process and not necessarily any outcome, which must be arrived at with mutual agreement.

Two, India has also reminded Nepal that the process of amendments must be taken forward in an inclusive manner, with the consent of the Madhesi parties. Sources said this was because ‘unilateral measures’ may not meet the objective of resolving the crisis — for instance the constitution, done unilaterally, had only exacerbated the crisis.

The Madhesi parties have argued the current amendments represent a dilution from the interim constitution. They are in negotiations with the lead opposition party, Nepali Congress, to arrive at a common position. NC has assured the Morcha that they would push for a revision of the amendments to reflect Tarai’s concerns.

And three, India has suggested to Nepal that there must be a very ‘credible’ roadmap on the issue of demarcation. The Madhesi parties have made it clear that immediate revision of boundaries is their ‘bottom-line’, while the government wants to postpone its resolution.

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