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India calls envoy back for consultations

Policemen face Madhesi protesters during a demonstration against Nepal’s new Constitution in Birgunj on Sunday.

Policemen face Madhesi protesters during a demonstration against Nepal’s new Constitution in Birgunj on Sunday.  

India says it has expressed concerns to Nepal over the "spillover" any violence will have on districts of Bihar.

“Deeply concerned” over the continuing violence in Nepal, and the impact of Kathmandu’s decision to adopt the Constitution despite >India’s advice, the Ministry of External Affairs on Monday called Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae back to Delhi for consultations.

In its third and most stern statement in three days on the situation in Nepal, the Ministry said it had “repeatedly cautioned the political leadership of Nepal to take urgent steps to defuse the tension in [the Terai] region.

“This, if done in a timely manner, could have avoided these serious developments,” the statement added, referring to the >clashes between Madhesi protesters and Nepali forces, as well as the impact on Indian transporters who have been stuck at the Biratnagar integrated border checkpost because of the violence.

The Ambassador’s visit and MEA statement come a day after >Nepal promulgated its Constitution, which India has >refused to welcome, with officials saying that Nepal”s decision to go ahead with its Constitution despite India’s advice had “put a strain” on ties. Meanwhile, Nepal’s Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay told The Hindu he was “completely surprised” by the Indian reaction. “On a day when Nepal was celebrating, India didn’t join in with us, that surprised us. I wish they had taken us into confidence about their reservations earlier,” Mr. Upadhyay said, adding that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s mission to Nepal last Friday, just before Sunday’s ceremony “came too late”. “We hope India realises this Constitution is just the beginning, a starting point from which we can move ahead to resolve our differences,” he said.

India says it has expressed its concerns to Nepal’s government because of a possible “spillover” of violence to districts of Bihar bordering Nepal. On Monday, police in Birgunj said three protesters were seriously injured when police opened fire on activists demanding greater representation for Madhesis in the new Constitution. In other towns of southern Nepal including Biratnagar and Janakpur, several protests were reported, where copies of the new Constitution were burnt. Since August 25, when clashes with the police first began over the Constitution, at least 40 people have been killed, mostly protesters, and including eight policemen who were lynched.

But India’s concerns aren’t just limited to the fear of violence spreading to parts of Bihar. Since 2007, when the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) had first signed on to the Constitution-building process, India has been a key influence, even playing guarantor for many of the parties. Officials say none of the commitments given by the Nepal government then on representation and rights of the Madhesi people were kept by the time the constitution was finalised, and India feels slighted by this. “The statements we have issued are a symbol of the frustration the government feels,” an official told The Hindu.

Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invested considerable personal stock in ties with Nepal, a country he has travelled extensively through in the past. On both visits to Nepal as Prime Minister, Mr. Modi had made a point of discussing the constitution building process, and in November 2014 publicly counselled Nepal’s government to seek “consensus, not numbers (majority)”. On August 25, when it became clear that Nepal’s government was going ahead with a majority vote for the Constitution, and violence broke out, Mr. Modi even made a telephone call to his Nepal counterpart Sushil Koirala. According to an MEA statement issued at the time, Mr. Modi had told him that the Nepali leadership “should resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue between all political parties and through the process of widest possible consultation”.

As the weeks have progressed, India’s message to Nepal has been less polite and more public, with statements expressing concern, sans any note of congratulations for the Constitution being adopted. “The issues facing Nepal are political in nature and cannot be resolved through force,” said the MEA’s statement on Monday. “We still hope that initiatives will be taken by Nepal’s leadership to effectively and credibly address the causes underlying the present state of confrontation.”

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Printable version | Jul 9, 2020 8:14:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nepal-anticonstitution-violence-india-calls-envoy-to-delhi-for-talks/article7674167.ece

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