At a low pointhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/editorials/nepal-crisis-madhesi-agitation-india-nepal-relation-2807674/

At a low point

Resumption of Madhesi agitation comes at a time when India’s Nepal problem has got more complicated.

Supporters of Nepal’s minority ethnic group wearing headbands with the name of the group try to break through a police cordon, as they protest in a main street leading to the prime minister’s office in Kathmandu.(AP photo)
Supporters of Nepal’s minority ethnic group wearing headbands with the name of the group try to break through a police cordon, as they protest in a main street leading to the prime minister’s office in Kathmandu.(AP photo)

With the resumption of the Madhesi agitation, led by the Federal Alliance, soon after Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli managed to save his job for the time being, Nepal looks set to return to where it was in October-November 2015. That was the time when Oli had assumed office and the Madhesis had embarked on their blockade that cut off Indian supply routes and plunged the Himalayan economy into deep crisis. In the meantime, Oli has made what’s now called an unsuccessful visit to New Delhi in February. That visit, billed as an attempt to restore India-Nepal ties, saw the blockade being lifted. But that Oli wasn’t happy was proved by his China trip the following month and the signing of deals in Beijing.

The resumption of protests now, asking for a re-demarcation of the new seven-province federal model as well as constitutional inclusiveness and proportional representation for ethnic minorities and marginalised sections in all state bodies, shows that concerns about the new constitution are far from being redressed. While the government admittedly has a challenging law and order situation at hand, the Madhesis too have changed their strategy by taking their agitation to the capital, Kathmandu. The cue for the fresh protests was Oli’s survival, as the Federal Alliance wants him ousted.

For India, the Oli government’s withdrawal of its ambassador and cancellation of the Nepal president’s visit — reportedly because the Nepali Congress’s move to unseat him followed party chief Sher Bahadur Deuba’s return from Delhi — signal a fresh complication in ties that are at a historic low. With Nepali public opinion set against India since the blockade, all that Delhi can do right now is watch and wait, while urging Nepal’s leaders to be accommodative.