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Oli-led Government-12

Issue January 2016

 Damage Control Move

Siddhi B Ranjitkar


Prime Minster KP Oli put a telephone call to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi apparently to say “Happy New Year 2016,” according to the Nepalese media. Modi’s foreign policy on the neighbors has faced the unprecedented crises. Obviously, it is a great opportunity for Modi of the damage control after his devastating regional foreign policy dropped to the lowest level in his political career. He dropped by Pakistan unexpectedly to say “hello” to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharrif recently. He had accepted the Nepalese government plan on amending the constitution to offset the Madheshi blocking the Nepal entry points with the support of the Indian government clearly but not officially to avoid the international litigation. Madheshi leaders had not accepted the government proposal for amending the constitution. They had continued the blockade.


Neighborly relations between Nepal and India had reached the record low level unparallel in the history after Modi wanted to subjugate the Nepalese leaders to his iron will. Modi’s test of strength to bully the neighbor and Oli’s equally unruly determination to stand against the Modi’s intimidation contributed to the deterioration of the bilateral relations, and then the closure of the frontiers for the supplies trucks moving back and forth between Nepal and India.


Modi did not anticipate that Nepalese could be so tolerant to the hardship, and would not rise up against the Nepalese government when India stopped sending supplies to Nepal causing tremendous economic loss, and unbelievable sufferings to Nepalese common folks; that were the greatest sin even more than killing cow a Hind devout such as Narendra Modi could commit. Modi needed to atone for such an incredible sin he had committed.


On the New Year eve of 2016, Oli made a telephone call to Modi to say “Happy New Year”, and then they continued to talk for about 20 minutes, according to the online news on the Kathmandu Post. Modi’s interest was to put back the cordial relations on track that had gone off the track very far causing the damage to both Oli in Nepal and Modi in India. The damage to the reputation of Modi had far more exceed than the damage to the Oli’s impotence to act promptly.


Oli was smart to thank Modi for accepting the three-point constitution amendment bill to meet the demands of the United Democrat Madheshi Front (UDMF). Clearly, Modi was satisfied with the amendment bill that was what Oli’s point was. Both the prime ministers did not mind what the stakeholders such as UDMF leaders would think about it and whether they would accept it or not. Oli might have thought that it was Modi that had been against the constitution; so, the amendment was for him; no matter what the UDMF leaders wanted. Oli’s victory over the UDMF would be once he secured the acceptance of the Nepalese constitution from Modi. That was why Oli was not serious about talking to the Madheshi leaders.


Oli took the opportunity of Modi’s New Year greeting and urged Modi to open the frontiers for the smooth movement of supplies trucks between Nepal and India. Modi had been a few steps ahead of Oil for not being accountable to the closure of the frontiers for the supplies trucks, and Modi said that he had been always for supplying the petroleum products smoothly to Nepal. Modi’s ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae had been even smarter to question the Nepalese where the so many trucks carrying petroleum products had gone causing so much shortage in Nepal. The ambassador might be hinting at the State-owned monopoly company might be causing the shortage of petroleum products selling them in the parallel market at higher prices to make highest possible profits in a short time. Actually, some newspapers even wrote that the State-decision makers did not want the smooth supply of petroleum products for the obvious reasons.


On Wednesday, December 30, 2015, Nepalese ambassador in New Delhi Deep Kumar Upadhyay went to see Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). At the meeting the foreign secretary said that the Indian government was working to tackle the problems of the Nepal-India border closure at the earliest, according to the news on The Indian officials were happy to welcome the proposed amendment to the constitution and even commented that it was to meet the demands of the UDMF leaders.


Ambassador Upadhyay urged Indian Foreign Secretary Jaishankar to create an environment conducive to the free and smooth movement of supplies trucks to Nepal, as the short supply of fuel, gas and medicines had been causing hardship to Nepalese common folks. The ambassador also implored Jaishankar to ease the control system the Indian government had set up at the border points including Birgunj entry point to open up the entry fully.


In response to the Nepalese ambassador, Jaishankar said that the Indian government was optimistic about the constitution amendment bill and the political settlement in Nepal; everything would be back to regular business starting in the New Year, he said. The foreign secretary also assured the Nepalese diplomat of providing any sorts of support for the political stability in Nepal, and he advised the diplomat to work together with the UDMF leaders, the news on stated.


Accepting the memorandum of the Reporter’s Club Nepal on Wednesday, December 30, 2015, Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae said that India had been for the political consensus in Nepal; the ongoing protest in Tarai was a political problem that should be resolved through dialogue. “We support the government and parties’ bid to seek a political solution and wish it to be result-oriented and meaningful,” the news on quoted the Indian diplomat.


“We do not have any other interest in Nepal except its stability and development,” the ambassador said. Comments: What about the water resources of Nepal, and the possible generation of power from them? His boss Mr. Modi had clearly told the audience at the political rally in Bihar when the State Assembly elections were held that he would produce electricity in Nepal to light up the Bihar State.


The ambassador also said that India had been waiting for welcoming Prime Minister KP Oli and India had made an invitation to him. The ambassador simply ignored the statement of Oli that he would not visit India as long as India would keep blocking the frontiers between Nepal and India. The ambassador also should know that China also had invited Oil for his State visit.


In a statement issued in New Delhi on December 21, 2015, India welcomed the Nepalese government’s decision on the three-point constitution amendment. The statement published on is as follow.


Indian MEA’s Statement on Nepal


1. External Affairs Minister was informed by Nepal’s Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa today that the Nepalese Cabinet has taken some important decisions to address and resolve demands regarding the Constitution raised by agitating Madhes-based parties.


2. These decisions include amendments to the Constitution on participation in the state organs on the basis of proportionate inclusiveness and delineation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population. The demarcation of provinces is also to be addressed through an appropriate arrangement in the Constitution on the basis of political consensus. Similarly, others demands including citizenship are to be resolved through negotiations and consensus.


3. Government of India welcomes these developments as positive steps that help create the basis for a resolution of the current impasse in Nepal. As a neighbor and well-wisher, India was deeply concerned at the unrest stemming from internal differences in Nepal on the Constitution. We urge all Nepali political forces to now demonstrate the necessary maturity and flexibility to find a satisfactory solution to the Constitutional issues through constructive dialogue in an agreed timeframe.


4.We are confident that a return to normalcy in Nepal would create a more secure and predictable climate for unimpeded commerce between our two countries.


New Delhi,

December 21, 2015


Saying, “We urge all Nepali political forces to now demonstrate the necessary maturity and flexibility to find a satisfactory solution to the Constitutional issues through constructive dialogue in an agreed timeframe,” Indian Ministry of External Affairs thought that the Nepalese political forces had been immature and inflexible. What a great thought these Indian politicians and diplomats had that Nepalese political leaders had not been mature and flexible. They did not notice that Nepalese leaders had spent seven years on debating various pros and cons of a new constitution, and the political leaders had shown a great flexibility and patience to craft a new constitution and adopt it. Indian leaders could learn lessons on this matter from the Nepalese politicians.


“Foreign ministry calls India’s welcome statement encouraging” the news on the said on December 23, 2015. “The Government of Nepal has taken the statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs on Nepal on December 21, 2015 as positive and encouraging,” a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated. “These positive gestures from a friendly neighbor will be helpful in normalizing the existing situation as well as restoring normalcy of the supply system across the Nepal-India border,” the statement further stated. Deputy PM and also Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa said that India’s positive gesture would help resolve the problems of Nepal and hoped the border-obstruction would be eased shortly.


After informing the Nepalese government’s decision on amending the constitution to the Indian external ministry, the government wrote a letter to the UDMF leaders about it. Deputy Prime Minister holding the portfolio of coordinator of the talks team Kamal Thapa invited the UDMF leaders to his office on Monday December 21, 2015 to inform them about the government’s decision.


At an emergency Cabinet meeting held on Sunday evening, December 20, 2015, the Oli government decided to set up a high-level political mechanism on redrawing the borders of federal provinces adopted by the constitution with recommendations acceptable to all stakeholders within three months from the day of its formation, the news on online Kathmandu Post stated.


Speaking at an interaction function in Kathmandu On Monday, December 21, 2015, leader of Nepal Sadbhawan Party Mahendra Raya Yadav rejected the proposal of the government for the re-demarcation of federal provinces within three months. He made it clear that UDMF leaders had been more concerned with their 11-point demand than the government’s three-point decision.


Mr. Yadav also complained that the government had not provided the injured protesters with the free treatment, and the family of those killed at the protest rallies with compensation the government had promised, and had not withdrawn the fake charges the police had filed against the protesters, the news on online Kathmandu post stated.


Concerning the meeting he had with Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae this morning, December 21, 2015, Yadav said that Rae was interested in the UDMF’s position on the three-point decision made by the government. Yadav bluntly told Rae that the decision could not resolve the current crisis.


The Indian envoy termed the government move a positive one and urged the UDMF leaders to take it and asked them to end the border obstruction and seek a political solution through dialogue. The Indian envoy suggested that their indefinite strike and blockage would not help in finding a way out of the current impasse, said UDMF leaders attending the meeting.


A meeting of the UDMF leaders held at the party headquarters of the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal at Tinkune in Kathmandu concluded that the government’s three-point proposal to amend the constitution did not meet the UDMF’s 11-point demand. “It is clear from the government’s letter sent to the front yesterday that the government is not serious about the front’s demands on resolving the problem through talks,” stated a press release of the UDMF after the meeting, the news on stated.


The UDMF’s demands included equal citizenship and linguistic rights, delineation of constituencies based on the population, guarantee of proportional representation of marginalized communities including Madheshis, indigenous people, Tharus, Dalits, Muslims and women in all state agencies and bodies.


A government’s talks team member and also Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Agni Kharel termed the front’s response irresponsible and said that the front was unwilling to find a solution through talks. Minister Kharel said, “Unlike the front’s response, the government’s proposal is concrete, clear and objective and the government firmly believes that the solution will emerge from the government’s three-point roadmap.”


Sadbhawna Party leader Suman said that a day after the Cabinet made the three-point roadmap, Prime Minister KP Oli publicly declared that Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts would not be split up while carving out federal units. “If the PM makes such a statement, how can the front be assured that the government would resolve the issue of boundaries in three months,” Suman said.


At a meeting held with Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and also Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa on Thursday, December 24, 2015, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao signaled that China was ready to provide Nepal with more free fuel and had also shown readiness to engage in commercial fuel deals. Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao recalled the earlier 1000 metric-ton fuel China had provided Nepal gratis and discussed about the possibility of more support. Chinese VP Li welcomed Nepalese delegation led by DPM Thapa at the Great Hall in Beijing and discussed bilateral relations for one hour and 45 minutes. Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai was present at the meeting. According to a Nepalese delegation member: Minister for Law and Justice Agni Kharel, both sides held an open discussion about the Nepal-China relations, the news on stated on December 24, 2015. Nepali delegation is scheduled to meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi later.


According to the Nepalese Ambassador to China: Mahesh Maskey, Nepalese delegation requested VP Li for exemption of tax on fuels, as Nepal wants a commercial deal for petroleum supply. This is the first time that Nepal has requested China at the highest political level for tax exemption after signing a memorandum of understanding for petroleum supply to Nepal with China following the India's undeclared blockade on Nepal.


A press release issued by the Nepalese Embassy in Beijing on Thursday stated that VP Li has hinted at providing more assistance to Nepal. "VP Li has given a message that China is ready to provide petroleum products to Nepal with commercial purpose by resolving the challenges of importing fuel via treacherous roads and also consider the request for tax exemption," said a Nepalese official. "The meeting with Chinese foreign minister on Friday could give a breakthrough," the official added. 


Nepalese delegation also requested VP Li for making arrangements to reopen Tatopani checkpoint soon and to extend the railways from Kerung to Nepal.


Nepalese team also brought up the transit facility via China with the Chinese VP Li. "Nepal now wants transit facility not only from India but also from China," said Ambassador Maskey.


Hong Lei: the spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that both the countries have given priority to the first high-level visit from Nepal after the promulgation of Nepal's constitution and the formation of Oli government.


January 2, 2016


India’s Nepal problem

Unending turmoil and sputtering democratic transition has made Nepal a playground for powers hostile to India

By Brahma Chellaney

First Published: Thu, Dec 24 2015. 10 25 PM IST


Nepal is not just another neighbor of India but one that is symbiotically linked to it by close cultural affinity, overlapping ethnic and linguistic identities, and an open border permitting passage without documentation or even registration, an unusual arrangement. The India-Nepal relationship is deeper than between any two European Union states. Indeed, ever since the 1951 Chinese annexation of Tibet eliminated the outer buffer between India and China, Nepal has served as the main inner buffer. Political turmoil in Nepal directly impinges on Indian security.


Nepal’s current political and constitutional crisis, which has engendered violent protests and serious shortages of fuel and other essential goods, is just the latest chapter in a flawed democratic experiment since 1990. The experiment has yielded mostly political upheavals from opening the door to a decade-long Maoist insurgency and facilitating the ouster of the country’s monarchy to the deepening of the country’s ethnic fault lines and the empowerment of communists. By fostering unending turmoil, the sputtering democratic transition has made Nepal a playground for powers hostile to India.


Still, Nepali nationalism usually takes the form of India baiting. India is again at the centre of blame game by Nepalese nationalists many of them communists including ex-guerrillas like Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli. Ultra-nationalism and communism tend to be two sides of the same coin, as is also apparent in several ex-communist countries and China.


Nepal’s latest crisis is linked to a new constitution that was rammed through with controversial provisions that leave the Terai plains people politically vulnerable. Oli’s communist-dominated government appointed in October after the constitution took effect has only fuelled the crisis with a hard-line policy stance. Yet, Oli has made India the scapegoat accusing it of unofficially blockading essential supplies to landlocked Nepal, an accusation lapped up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Indian critics. However, anyone visiting the Birgunj-Raxual border through which much of the trade flows can see that the blockade is by the ethnic Madhesi protest groups.


With India mediating between the two sides, Oli has now grudgingly offered to accommodate some of the Terai people’s demands including two constitutional amendments. But Madheshi leaders accusing Oli of being wedded to a divisive agenda have rejected his offer as inadequate. If the crisis drags on, a failed constitution will compound Nepal’s political disarray.


The serious challenge posed by a quasi-failed Nepal to India is unlikely to go away, especially given the long open frontier. New Delhi has yet to frame a credible long-term strategy to deal with a problem that includes Nepal serving as a gateway for China and Pakistan to undermine Indian security. Nepal has also become a conduit for the flow of illicit arms, narcotics and counterfeit currency to India. Kathmandu instead of cracking down on such activity with Indian assistance has objected to India increasing the deployment of the Sashastra Seema Bal: a police force that patrols the Nepal and Bhutan borders.


To be sure, India’s missteps and neglect have exacerbated its Nepal problem. For example, it encouraged in an intimidation-filled environment in Nepal and by ceding strategic space to outside powers and the United Nations the 2008 election process, which brought the Maoists to power. Having sowed the wind in Nepal, India reaped the Maoist whirlwind in the red corridor from Pashupati to Tirupati.


Despite Nepal’s critical importance to India, Modi’s August 2014 visit was the first by an Indian prime minister to that country in 17 years. It came after China had strategically penetrated Nepal.


To his credit, Modi has sought to diplomatically recoup India’s losses over the years in its strategic backyard. Modi indeed visited Nepal a second time in 2014 to participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit. The two visits created a groundswell of Nepalese goodwill for India. But as soon as political machinations in Nepal over constitution making triggered a new crisis, the powerful communist parties reignited the entrenched Nepalese suspicion about India’s agenda.


Today, with an India-unfriendly government in Kathmandu, New Delhi must vie with China for influence in a country that was its security preserve for more than half a century. Aided by Nepalese communists, Beijing wields increasing influence in Nepal, which Mao Zedong once described as one of the fingers of the Tibetan palm: the others being Bhutan, Sikkim, Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. It is not an accident that having tightened its grip over the palm (Tibet), China is exerting pressure on India through each of the fingers.


Nepal’s porous 1,751km border with India meanwhile remains a boon for Pakistani and Chinese intelligence. India has been slow to institute a stricter border regime to choke illicit activities and halt entry of arms, plastic explosives, opiates, fake currency and subversive elements.


Nations respect, and hold in awe, a neighbor that has power, strength and determination. A weak-kneed big neighbor by contrast comes in handy to a smaller state for pinning blame on for anything, real or imagined. Nepal although adrift has the gumption to bait India and publicly ask it to stop acting like a big brother, while paying obeisance to China. It has awarded China a $1.6 billion large dam project: the single biggest foreign investment in Nepal, while failing to revive long-stalled joint energy projects with India.


If India cannot manage a state closely tied to it like Nepal how can it effectively deal with adversarial China and Pakistan?


Brahma Chellaney is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research.


Comments; the professor wrote a good English language article on Nepal but he had the superiority feeling although his ancestors had been subjugated for about thousand years first by Moguls then by the British. Now he wanted to be a superior folk to all folks in the South Asia.

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