Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Nepal’s new PM, KP Oli, on Sunday afternoon and congratulated him on winning in ‘democratic and orderly elections’. He has also invited Oli to visit India. The PM said that India values ties with Nepal, and wants to strengthen it even more.
The phone call came after a chill in ties between India and Nepal’s top political elite, particularly Oli, who was seen as a driving force of what India’s considers a flawed constitution which ignores aspirations of a large section of the people in the Tarai.
And in a reminder of precisely this challenge, Modi expressed the hope and expectation to Oli, according to a Ministry of External Affairs statement, that he would ‘carry all sections of society along, so that there is peace and stability’. The calibrated message – the congratulations and invitation, accompanied with caution and reminder – was deliberate.
India’s core objective, sources told HT, remains encouraging the Nepali leadership to make the required changes which would give the constitution wider acceptance, and allow the currently disillusioned sections of the Nepali people – Madhesis and Tharus – to own the constitution.
The sense in Delhi is that Oli is in a strong position, and has the space to reach out to these constituencies. If he decides to amend the constitution and take the Tarai into confidence, this will be viewed as a positive step. The fact that Oli has committed to addressing Tarai issues in two agreements – with Maoist chair Prachanda and a smaller Tarai party which backed him for PM – gives some room for hope.
But policymakers will be closely watching and till there is firm action, the message will continue to be reiterated.