A foreign policy disaster

A foreign policy disaster

At last, the Himalayan nation adopted a new constitution. This impoverished nation saw a protracted struggle against monarchy followed by an uncertain transitional democracy.

At last, the Himalayan nation adopted a new constitution. This impoverished nation saw a protracted struggle against monarchy followed by an uncertain transitional democracy.

There was a time when friends of Nepal were concerned about the possibility of gains of anti-monarchy struggle waning away. The internecine political expediency was taking a heavy toll on the process of constitution-making.

Therefore, adoption of a democratic, federal and secular constitution in Nepal is a historic moment.It took eight years after the interim constitution came into force for the Nepal to approve a new constitution.

The adoption of the new constitution was marked by protests and violence in Terai region. Madhesi people have concerns over the constitution. They were demanding restructuring of the provinces to their advantage.

Even India has officially expressed concern over these protests which will not go well with the Nepali society. India recalled its Ambassador to Nepal for consultations subsequent to the adoption of new Constitution.

Obviously, such foreign policy move from India will be perceived as interventionist and strengthen the perception that India is acting as a big brother in the region.

Nepal is an independent nation. The people of Nepal have a right to adopt their own constitution and a process of their choice. Instead of welcoming Nepal’s tryst with history, Indian foreign policy establishment chose to act in a manner in which it will be perceived as an imperial power.

At a time, when Chinese footprint is expanding in Nepal, India should have pursued more cautious approach in dealing with the developments in its strategic neighbour.

Observers feel that the fundamental rights enunciated in the new constitution of Nepal are wider in character than those envisaged in Indian constitution. India has been following First-past-the-post system of elections.

But, the new constitution of Nepal adopted provisions of proportional representation for nearly half of the seats in the House of Representatives. The proportional representation system is more representative.

There has been a long-standing demand in India to switch over to full or at least partial proportional representation. What Indians could not achieve the citizens of this tiny nation could get.

Women along with different ethnic groups like Madesis etc are given reservations in various constitutional bodies. On the contrary, women’s reservations bill in India has been languishing for decades. Like India, Nepal too adopted three layers of governance – federal, provincial and local.

The pro-monarchy political groups and certain religious groups wanted Nepal to be Hindu State .It was in fact a Hindu kingdom till monarchy was overthrown in a popular struggle.

But, the new constitution defines Nepal as a secular republic. Thus the nascent democracy joins the galaxy of modern democracies of the world.

The concerns of Madhesi people who constitute nearly 50 per cent of Nepal’s population may be legitimate. India should only allow the democratic Nepal to reasonably address these concerns.

But, the Government of India‘s interventionist posturing on the eve of our neighbour charting a new course of history is a foreign policy disaster. It will have wider ramifications for India’s neighbourhood diplomacy in South Asia.

Editor: Prof K Nageshwar

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