Modi On World Campaign Against Nepal’s Constitution: Nandalal Tiwari
Not satisfied with the 5-month-long blockade against quake-ravaged Nepal, which ultimately failed him in meeting his objective of teaching a lesson to the Nepalese leaders for not writing the new constitution in the way India wanted and not postponing its promulgation despite warnings, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be still carrying on with the same mission - teach lessons.
Point No. 17 of the 41-point joint statement issued after the 13th EU-India Summit, in which issues about Nepal’s new constitution was included, is the latest example of how Modi has been trying to seek international support for his mission. And it is the third time that India has raised the issue at international forums or in joint statements. Earlier, in November, such an issue was raised in the joint statement issued after Indian PM Modi’s visit to the UK, and then in mid-March India raised the issue at the UN Human Rights Council’s meeting in Geneva. Reports said efforts were made to include such issues during the Japanese prime minister’s visit to India. But efforts failed as the Japanese PM disagreed with the Indian idea.
All these show that the Indian establishment is now begging for international support for what if failed on its own way.
The way India has been lobbying at international forums against Nepal’s new constitution despite the inhuman blockade, which ultimately backfired, makes it clear that India is bent on taking revenge against the Nepalese leaders for not listening to the Indian rulers. All references to Nepal’s new constitution in joint statements and the way issues are raised at other forums seem to be an act of vengeance.
This is the background: during People’s Movement II in 2006, the Indian establishment sent Dr. Karan Singh to persuade the Nepalese leaders not to go for a republican set up, but the Nepalese leaders defied the Indian wishes as the people were not for retaining the monarchy. Then, in September 2015, just two days before the sovereign Constituent Assembly (CA) was to promulgate the new constitution, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jayshankar visited Nepal as a special envoy of the Indian PM to coerce Nepalese leaders to postpone the promulgation of the constitution. Nepalese leaders defied it as they were not in a position to postpone the schedule endorsed by the CA.
The new constitution was promulgated on the set date, and Indian reservations were expressed as it only ‘noted’ the promulgation of the new constitution while many other countries, including the EU member states, welcomed it. Immediately after that India imposed an unannounced blockade, using the agitation in the southern part of Nepal as an excuse, which continued till a week before Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to India on February 19. Despite the official visit, no joint statement was issued due to Indian reservations over the new constitution.
During the blockade, Modi was criticised inside his country, in the Indian parliament. Many analysts see the loss of his party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the election in Bihar state to the blockade. Considerable people in Bihar of India and the central Terai of Nepal have familial relations.
It is clear Modi is in dire need to justify his blockade against Nepal at home. Therefore, whichever country he visits and whoever he holds talks with, he tries to include issues about Nepal’s constitution. This is necessary for him to show his opponents at home how correct his stand against Nepal’s constitution is. But, like the blockade, this second plan (creating international rumours) is certain to fail.
The Nepalese know well India wants a dominating role in Nepal’s affairs. Late BP Koirala termed it as a ‘structural guarantee’ and Maoist chair Prachanda has termed it as ‘micro management’. But India should know, with democracy here, no leader can fulfill all of India’s wishes. However, Nepalese are also aware that it needs to respect the genuine interests of India as well as those of other neighbouring countries.
Modi should note that Nepal’s objection to the EU-India joint statement has been sharper than the India-UK joint statement. It means, if another such statement is issued, Nepal’s response will be even shriller.
Point No. 17 of the India-EU joint statement under the subtitle ‘Advancing Foreign Policy, Human Rights and Security Cooperation’ reads “The EU and India pledged continued support to Nepal in its reconstruction efforts following the devastating earthquakes in 2015, including capacity building and long-term development. They also agreed on the need for a lasting and inclusive constitutional settlement in Nepal that will address the remaining Constitutional issues in a time-bound manner, and promote political stability and economic growth. They encouraged an inclusive dialogue between all political parties in the Maldives and reform that ensures respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”
The statement of the Foreign Ministry of Nepal issued on March 31 in response to the joint statement read, “The Government of Nepal calls on all to fully respect the sovereign and democratic rights of the people of Nepal and refrain from making uncalled for statements. The Government and people of Nepal are fully capable of resolving their issues themselves within the framework of the constitution.”
Nepal had objected to the India-UK joint statement in soft words: “Nepal respects the international community’s support and goodwill for peace, stability and prosperity. However, Nepal strongly views that constitution making is an internal matter of the country, and Nepal is capable of handling its internal affairs on its own.”
Moreover, Nepal’s Council of Ministers has also endorsed a special proposal decrying the way issues about Nepal’s constitution were raised in the EU-India joint statement. Leaders of many political parties in Nepal have also objected to the statement. This makes it clear that most Nepalese leaders are unwilling to be coached about the constitution anymore. Indian leaders must realise, would they remain silent if issues about Kashmir, Jharkhand or other states in India were raised at international forums by Nepal?
Given the Indian lobbying, Nepalese leaders should show greater political will and be more united than in the past to implement the new constitution. For sure, they must take the agitating Madhesi parties into confidence by addressing their remaining genuine demands.
Leaders should realise that Nehru was no less hawkish towards Nepal, but King Mahendra was daring enough to build the Kodari Highway, later named the Araniko Highway, linking Nepal and China during his time. Recently, many agreements have been made with India and China during PM Oli’s visits. Now leaders need greater political will to implement them no matter what rumour India tries to create in the world. Leaders should note China has repeatedly welcomed the new constitution. But we have to take diplomatic initiatives against India’s negative lobbying.