On Monday, Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa told India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj that the government had taken certain decisions regarding the demands of the Madhesi front.
These decisions were almost the same as the ones Thapa had mentioned to Swaraj during his visit to Delhi in November: a constitutional amendment to ensure proportional representation in state organs, the delimitation issue to be settled within three months and other demands like citizenship to be resolved through discussions.
However, what was new this time was a visible warmth and reciprocity on the part of Swaraj who called Thapa later to inform him that New Delhi would issue a ‘positive note’ on the developments. The Madhesi front leaders who had been guests of Indian Ambassador Rae at a breakfast meeting earlier on Monday said he had talked, “about the cost of the agitation for Nepal, and how uncomfortable India was feeling about it,” as a Front leader put it.
The first steps towards a resolution of the conflict between the government and the Madhesis was critical. The short supply of essential goods, including petrol, medicines and other commodities, ostensibly because of the ‘border blockade’ by the Front activists and the ‘unsafe’ conditions for Indian vehicles, has ruined Nepal’s economy post the April earthquake.
Meanwhile, Madhesi front leaders were losing control over the movement and India and the Indian PM in particular, were blamed for the suffering among the people in the hills and the plains because of the acute shortages.
India’s statement that the government’s ‘positive steps that will help create the basis for resolution of the current impasse in Nepal,” were welcomed. They come barely two days before Thapa’s scheduled visit to Beijing to ink in a deal which will address long and short term cooperation between the countries, including China helping out in the present crisis facing Nepal.
Madhesi front leaders will formulate their response to the new situation — one they had not anticipated –but the chances of their going against the new camaraderie between two governments is unlikely.