New Delhi: In a significant development which indicates that Nepal’s political leadership has finally blinked and seen reason, the Nepalese government has decided to amend the new Constitution to address two key demands by the agitating Madhesis on proportional representation and constituency delimitation, a move that was immediately welcomed by India on Monday evening as “positive steps that help create the basis for a resolution of the current impasse in Nepal.”
New Delhi further said “as a neighbour and well-wisher”, it was "deeply concerned at the unrest stemming from internal differences in Nepal on the Constitution” and “urged all Nepali political forces to now demonstrate the necessary maturity and flexibility to find a satisfactory solution to the constitutional issues through constructive dialogue in an agreed time-frame”.
India also expressed confidence that “a return to normality in Nepal would create a more secure and predictable climate for unimpeded commerce between our two countries”. Nepal has been hit badly by a fuel crisis and shortage of essential supplies due to the Madhesi agitation on the Nepal side of the border between the two countries. The Nepal government decided on this at an emergency Cabinet meeting at Singha Durbar in Kathmandu Sunday night, where it was also agreed to set up a political mechanism to recommend solutions to disputes over the proposed provincial boundaries within three months of its formation. The meeting decided to move forward with the bill to amend the new Constitution, which has already been tabled in Parliament.
"The bill ensured proportional inclusive participation in state organs as demanded by agitating parties and also proposed delimitation of electoral constituencies based on population, Nepal’s industry minister Som Prasad Pandey was quoted by news agencies as saying in Kathmandu after the meeting. On the political mechanism, he said it "will
recommend solutions to disputes over the proposed provincial boundaries within three months of its formation".
"Besides these issues, the demands related to citizenship and other issues can also be settled through negotiations. So we urge them (Madhesis) to withdraw the protests immediately," the Nepalese minister further said. "We are hopeful there will be positive outcome from the decision," Pramod Dahal, press adviser of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli was quoted as saying in Kathmandu. He said the government was waiting for a response from the agitating Madhesi parties in the matter.
India reacted swiftly, with the external affairs ministry in New Delhi saying: "External affairs minister (Sushma Swaraj) was informed by Nepal’s deputy PM and foreign minister Kamal Thapa today that the Nepalese Cabinet has taken some important decisions to address and resolve demands regarding the Constitution raised by agitating Madhes-based parties. These decisions include amendments to the Constitution on participation in the state organs on the basis of proportionate inclusiveness and delineation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population. The demarcation of provinces is also to be addressed through an appropriate arrangement in the Constitution on the basis of political consensus. Similarly, others demands including citizenship are to be resolved through negotiations and consensus."
India further said: "The Government of India welcomes these developments as positive steps that help create the basis for a resolution of the current impasse in Nepal. As a neighbour and well-wisher, India was deeply concerned at the unrest stemming from internal differences in Nepal on the Constitution. We urge all Nepali political forces to now demonstrate the necessary maturity and flexibility to find a satisfactory solution to constitutional issues through constructive dialogue in an agreed time-frame. We are confident that a return to normalcy in Nepal would create a more secure and predictable climate for unimpeded commerce between our two countries."
The agitating Madhes-based parties in Nepal have been protesting for over four months against the seven-province model proposed in the new Constitution that divides their ancestral land as a way to politically marginalise them. They have blockaded Nepal’s border trade points with India, causing a shortage of essential goods and medicines in the landlocked country. The three-point proposal was discussed in several rounds of talks in Nepal with agitating parties which expressed some reservations and demanded further clarity. Similarly, the meeting also urged the agitating parties to call off their protests, saying their demands can be addressed through dialogue.
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