2-8 October 2015 #778

Delhi’s next moves

Editorial in Kantipur, 1 October

The Nepali nation and Nepalis did not oppose Indian policies for no reason. If India is really worried about this, it should analyse the root causes that led to the situation and address them because this is not a problem that Nepal created. It was complicated by Nepal’s politicians bruising Indian diplomatic egos. To resolve this crisis, India would be well advised to take a hands-off approach. Certainly, the Madhesi and Tharu communities were dissatisfied with their unmet demands. But the three parties had publicly committed themselves to address them through amendments. It would also have been appropriate for India to welcome the new democratic and legitimate constitution like the rest of the international community. This wasn’t expected of a friend and neighbour who had been part of the peace process since the 12-point agreement. Delhi also made other diplomatic mis-steps after that. The decision to send a special envoy at the last moment to try to stop the constitution was especially impractical. Nepal’s leaders couldn’t have stopped it even if they wanted to. Then, to take revenge for not heeding its advice, India blockaded the border. This one step to make Nepal kneel suddenly unleashed an anti-Indian wave in the country. India had earlier tried to change the way it projected itself in Nepal with behind-the-scene diplomacy. With just one speech to the Nepal parliament, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had changed the perception of India in Nepal. India can now normalise bilateral relations by correcting the mistakes made by its diplomats, lifting the blockade and persuading agitated parties to join the government in decisive talks. India needs to understand the diplomatic, political and economic damage that it will cause itself by forcing Nepal to seek help elsewhere.

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