ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Punishing Nepal

The Indian government's Nepal policy is shameful, dangerous and self-defeating.

It is almost three months since the supply of goods from India into Nepal has been choked. A few days after Nepal’s Constituent Assembly approved its new constitution on 20 September 2015, the Madhesis—the Nepalis of the plains—began protests blocking roads and access points from India. Nepal’s constitution, by denying naturalised citizens access to the top positions of the republic, barred many Madhesis whose parents or grandparents came to Nepal from India from these posts. Also, the demarcation of provinces and constituencies has been done to keep the Madhesi population—which is half of Nepal’s total population—divided through administrative boundaries. The present constitution seems to ring-fence the traditional control of the hill upper castes—the Bahun and Chhetri—over the Nepali state. The Madhesi protest in the terai regions bordering India is a direct fallout of the inability of the main political parties of Nepal—the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the Nepali Congress and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)—to address these demands.

What, however, cannot be denied and is a cause of great concern is that there is now ample evidence to suggest that this blockade of Nepal is happening with the complicity of the Government of India. Even the response of the Indian government to the adoption of the new constitution and the manner in which it demanded changes in it indicates a brusque diplomatic demeanour, bordering on arrogance. This is not the first time that India has choked supplies to this impoverished landlocked country. In the late 1980s the Rajiv Gandhi regime, angry about Nepal’s growing relations with China, informally enforced a blockade by allowing trade and transit duties to lapse. It is inconceivable that the Madhesi groups have the stamina to sustain such a massive blockade over so many months without active and direct Indian support, both political as well as from its intelligence agencies.

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