India acts tough, puts pressure on Nepal over new statute

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 22, 2015 10:54 IST
Police stand in front of a burning passenger bus after it was set on fire by unidentified protesters during the nationwide strike, called by the opposition parties against the constitution, in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Reuters Photo)

Putting aside diplomatic nicety, India has conveyed its displeasure to Kathmandu over the manner in which Nepal promulgated its constitution and even hinted at a possible disruption in the movement of essential supplies because of the security situation at the border.

It told the Nepali leadership on Monday -- through a third official statement in as many days -- that the strife in the country’s plains would not have spiralled out of control had they heeded Delhi’s caution.

And, departing from what has become a practice over the years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “highly unlikely” to meet his Nepali counterpart Sushil Koirala in New York, sources said. World leaders will be gathering in New York for the annual UN general assembly later this month.

New Delhi also asked Nepali leaders to find a political solution to the ongoing unrest in Nepal.

There were also high-level consultations in the Capital on Monday on the steps India should take to put pressure on Kathmandu to accommodate dissenting voices of the Tarai, or the lowlands.

Violence continued in Nepal on Monday, as 10 people protesting against the constitution adopted a day ago were injured in police action.

The Indian statement has few parallels in the history of the bilateral relationship and indicates the sharp dip in ties within the last fortnight.

Delhi expressed concern at the violence in the region bordering India and said freight companies and transporters had complained about difficulty in movement within Nepal and shared “their security concerns, due to the prevailing unrest”.

Nepal depends on India for its supply of essential goods, including fuel.

If border violence would persist, highways remain blocked, trucks queue up at the border and drivers feel unsafe, the movement of supplies would become untenable, a government source indicated. This will cripple Kathmandu.

India has put the onus on Nepal’s political leadership and said it had “repeatedly cautioned” them “to take urgent step to defuse the tension in these regions”. “This, if done in a timely manner, could have avoided these serious developments,” the statement said.

The Nepal government is learnt to have requested a prime ministerial-level meeting in New York. But, political and government sources said Modi was unlikely to meet Koirala. The Nepal PM, Delhi feels, played a duplicitous game of giving false assurances while stoking “anti-India” feelings. They gave the example of his press adviser Prateek Pradhan who resigned from office on Monday. He had written a sharply critical piece about India and Modi in a newspaper last week. During his visit to Kathmandu, foreign secretary S Jaishankar pointedly asked Koirala how India should view the message from the Nepal PMO, making his displeasure known.

India also reiterated the need for political consensus, saying the issues were political and couldn’t be resolved by force – seen as an indictment of Nepali security forces that have been criticised by rights group for using excessive force.

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