Nepal’s ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay has said his country’s economy was sinking and there was need for urgent steps for restoring supplies from India, which have been disrupted due to agitation by Madhesi parties over the new constitution.
Speaking at a round-table Tuesday evening on “The New Nepal Constitution: A View from the Ground” here, Upadhyay said supplies to his country from India should not be linked to politics.
“Supply is one thing, politics other thing… No politics will be successful by keeping people in problem,” Upadhyay said.
Striking a conciliatory note, the envoy said some mistakes had been made and if concerns of people in Terai region of Nepal about the country’s new constitution were addressed earlier, there would not be such difficulties.
Madhes parties have been agitating in Nepal against the new constitution, promulgated on September 20, leading to supplies from India getting severely impacted. India has said there is no blockade of Nepal and supplies have been disrupted due to agitation by Madhesi parties.
The round-table was attended by Nationalist Congress Party leader D.P. Tripathi, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, former Nepal Minister Prakash Saran Mahat and Anil Jha, leader of Nepal Sadbhawana Party. The conference was organised by South Asian Dialogues for Ecological Democracy (SADED) at the India International Centre.
Upadhyay said Nepal, which faced a massive earthquake earlier this year, was “burning”.
“Nepal’s economy is sinking. It is difficult to revive an economy if it sinks,” he said. “The problem has to be tackled diplomatically, politically… It is has to be solved at the earliest due to interruption in supplies,” Upadhyay said.
He said there could be misunderstanding for some days but the bilateral relationship has to be brought back to its “usual level.” Upadhyay said the Himalayan country’s relations with India cannot be compared to any other country.
Jha said Madhes parties had agitating for the past nearly three months and several people had been killed but their sentiments were not being understood by the present Nepali leadership.
“Nepal government is not ready to address our concerns. That is why we are agitating,” he said, adding that if solution was not found, the “next battle could be radical.”
Jha said that the agitation on border with India had been going on for the past 48 days. “That is called indirect blockade,” he said.
Jha supported the stance of India which has been urging Nepal to find a political solution to the problems facing section of its own people. He said Madhesi parties had concerns on issues such as those pertaining to citizenship and representation on the basis of both geography and population.
Mahat, who is a leader of the Nepali Congress, said his party was pressing some amendments to find solution to the present imbroglio. “The way it is presented as big discrimination (against people in Terai). It is not like that,” he said.
He said Nepali people were suffering due to disruption in supplies. “We need to do something immediately,” he said.
Ramesh, a former Indian minister, said there was need to focus on “political process” and urged the convening of a “Friends of Nepal” meeting comprising experts, MPs, and former MPs, which can emerge as a pressure group. He said such a group can help manage anti-India sentiment in Nepal while also ensuring that India shows more sensitivity towards the land-locked country.
Ramesh said India should have welcomed the promulgation of constitution in Nepal while listing its concerns. He also said India’s stance on Nepal could not be seen in isolation from the Bihar assembly polls. He said the RSS and BJP president Amit Shah wanted to send a strong signal that “we are with Madhesis.”
The Congress leader said the Nepalese political establishment had not shown magnanimity in formulating the constitution. “Population is generally accepted as principle of representation. It cannot be ignored,” he said referring to a major concern of Madhesi parties that represent people who are of Indian origin.
He said the necessary changes should be made by bringing amendments to the constitution.
Vijay Pratap, honorary convenor of SADED, said the Indian establishment should not indulge “in factional micro management” in Nepal.
“There is need to address Madhesi sentiments (by authorities in Nepal),” he said.