Free Press Journal

Nepal hopeful standoff with India will end soon


Ajit Doval

Kathmandu: Several rounds of formal and informal talks at the diplomatic and political level has raised hopes of easing the standoff on the Nepal-India border, official sources said. Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa visited New Delhi twice in the last two months and met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

On returning to Kathmandu on Thursday, Thapa told journalists that he was confident the prevailing crisis in the country would end soon. Thapa also sought the help of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shanakar in Bengaluru to end the crisis that has effectively sealed the border, causing widespread shortages in Nepal.

Thapa said he had succeeded in removing the “misunderstandings” between Nepal and India. On Thurday, Sushma Swaraj said in New Delhi that she had a “good meeting with Thapa.

“He assured me that there has been progress in the dialogue on the contentious issues with the agitating parties. This gives us hope that an early resolution would be found for the political problems facing Nepal. “We will continue to encourage all sides to come to a solution sooner rather than later.”

Also, the Nepal government and major political parties have agreed to amend the new constitution to address the grievances of the Madesh parties soon. A meeting of major political parties has agreed to move forward the constitutional amendments as per the demands of the agitating Tarai-Madesh based parties.

Nepal’s major parties have been mulling over accommodating the Madeshis in various state organs apart from the Nepal Army through inclusive proportional representation. Similarly, electoral constituencies will be redrawn on the basis of the population.

Tarai-Madesh area holds 21 percent of Nepal’s population, and they may secure 78-80 seats in the directly elected House of Representatives. Another key demand of the Madehsis is changes in the demarcation of seven federal units.

For this, political parties will seek three months time to settle the row by setting up a federal delineation commission. The top leaders of the agitating parties from Tarai-Madesh region have reached Kathmandu for talks with the government.

Thapa said: “I had open talks with Indian officials. The situation will normalise soon. Let’s wait for the result.” He told his party cadres here that the blockade on the border with India would end soon. “The dramatic blockade imposed by India will end dramatically,” said Thapa.

India denies imposing any blockade, saying truckers are reluctant to drive to Nepal due to violent protests on the Nepalese side of the border. But Thapa said India had failed to deliver on earlier assurances of ending the blockade. “We are not ready to take India’s word. They assured us earlier as well.”