On September 20, 2015, Nepal promulgated a brand new constitution that promises to forever transform the identity of the erstwhile Himalayan Kingdom. The new constitution has changed Nepal practically into a federal democratic country by creating seven unnamed states!
The problem is, at least 40% of Nepalese have rejected even the idea, let alone its application.
Geopolitics is the driving force behind India’s concern, and interference in Nepal’s internal affair. The Madhesi community living in the Terai region, bordering India, figures today in the Indian policy much like the Sri Lankan Tamil used to be. India wants the Madhesis, who form roughly one-third of Nepal’s population, to get equal rights, representations, and full citizenship.
India is also concerned that unless the violence is contained, unless the disempowered are appeased, the turmoil could spill over into Bihar, a State gearing up for one of the hottest electoral battle fought in recent times.
That has forced the India-Nepal trade checkpoint to shutdown, cutting off vital supplies to Nepal. Hundreds of trucks, loaded with essential commodities, were stalled at the border in Birgunj, fearing escalation of violence and the resultant spill over.
The love affair that started with the earthquake in May has turned bitter.
How legitimate is Nepal’s new constitution, anyway?
Constitutions across the world are collectively sanctioned by their people. But here, in Nepal, over 20 districts are reeling, and under curfew, in the midst of violent protests. The Government must rethink, or alter the controversial elements, in the book, make it more inclusive.
But by providing unsolicited advice, India is being prescriptive.
India is among a handful of countries, along with the US and EU, which have expressed reservation. It wants the constitution to be all-inclusive, it is against division of States, and various other controversial aspects of the constitution.
India’s intentions are pious, but the perception could be damaging. Interference in internal matters will portray India as a country that arm-twisted a tiny nation into accommodating its political needs.