India is looking to engage with Nepal’s new Prime Minister, Khadga Prasad Oli, in the next few weeks to break the deadlock in ties, as sources claim that New Delhi has noticed “evolution” of his views on the Madhesi representation in Nepal’s Constitution. The Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, got in touch with Oli on Monday, and has kept the communication channels open since.
While Delhi was consistent in asking Nepal’s leadership to have a “broad-based” and “inclusive” Constitution, Kathmandu had so far shown no inclination to address the issues raised by the country’s “disaffected population” — including the Madhesis and the Janjatis. Government sources said that earlier the Madhesi agitators were even being billed as “criminals” by some Nepalese leaders.
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Sources added that this outlook has changed with Oli stepping in as PM after agreeing to an eight-point pact. The eight-point pact makes an attempt to make the Constitution more inclusive, and the establishment in Kathmandu is now showing “greater willingness” to negotiate and address the concerns, officials tracking developments in Nepal said.
Official sources feel that Oli and his key interlocutors might be open to “negotiations” and “deal-making” with the Madhesis and the other “disaffected” groups. While being cautiously optimistic, New Delhi has decided to “wait and watch” Oli’s ability to end the current crisis.
Sources pointed out that the congratulatory message sent by PM Narendra Modi had expressed the hope that Oli will address all outstanding political issues confronting the country.
“Whether or not, he will do something about it, India has to wait and see…. We hope that now he will move on this 8-point agreement he has signed and made public,” sources said.
Officials also stressed that India’s neighbourhood-first policy never meant “pandering”. “India will not sacrifice its interests nor will it adopt a ‘Dhritarashtra’ (blind) approach,” sources asserted.
India’s ties with Nepal suffered a setback after the protests by the Madhes-based political parties disrupted supplies of fuel and other essential commodities from the Indian side.
Amid mounting pressure on Nepal’s government over dwindling supplies of goods from India, China had reopened its border with Nepal in Tibet that was closed after the road on both sides was damaged in the recent earthquake.