As Nepal’s top parties arrive at a constitutional climax amidst protests and violence across the country’s southern plains, India has said it is ‘concerned’ about the ‘ongoing protests and strife’. In a statement, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has welcomed recent progress in the Constituent Assembly but has urged ‘continuing flexibility…dialogue...widest possible consultation’ to resolve outstanding issues.
Nepal’s current constitutional draft has been opposed by politically excluded social groups, especially Madhesis and Tharus, in the plains across the open border from India. They object to federal demarcation done in the statute and the process with which it is being pushed through by top parties. During protests and clashes with the security forces, 40 people have died in the past three weeks in the country.
In a significant message, India said ‘a Constitution, which is fully owned by and accommodates the aspirations of all regions and sections of the Nepalese society’ would lay a 'durable foundation' for a peaceful and prosperous Nepal. It also said a ‘durable and resilient’ constitution is necessary to build a modern Nepal.
This will be seen as a balanced statement in Kathmandu. Ruling parties are expected to highlight the support for the CA achievements, while those protesting will emphasise the Indian support for dialogue and accommodating divergent aspirations of regions and communities.
India also noted the ‘horrific violence’ in the region over the preceding few weeks, and pointed out that whether it was citizens or government officials, the blood spilled had been Nepalese. It asked for ‘dialogue and widest possible agreement in an atmosphere free of violence’.