Consulting With Friendly Countries Isn’t “Interference in Internal Affairs”: Former Nepal PM

If there are broader policy issues, which have regional ramifications, there should be space for consultation, says Baburam Bhattarai

Baburam Bhattarai. Credit: Reuters

Baburam Bhattarai. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Consultations with friendly countries for policy issues which have regional and international ramifications should not be deemed as interference in internal affairs, former Nepal prime minister Baburam Bhattarai said on Friday.

Speaking at a discussion at Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research, Bhattarai’s explanation was in answer to a query on whether India had any role in the internal politics of Nepal.

“On specific political issues, no outside force should have a role… it is recognised as interference in internal affairs,” said Bhattarai, who is now Naya Shakti Nepal Coordinator.

But, there could be space for other countries in the shape of consultations on policy matters. “If there is broader policy, which have regional and international ramification.. such issues among friends and neighbours there should be broader consultations… that should not be seen as interference in internal affairs,” he said.

Bhattarai gave example of policy matters like “inclusive democracy” and “democracy versus autocratic monarchy” which have “fallout even in neighbouring country”.

“But that should not indulge in specific issue, who should be leader, who should promoted or who should be demoted, that is interference in internal affairs,” said the former Maoist leader.

Earlier, he had criticised India for often being “behind the curve” on big policy issues in Nepal, and instead getting bogged down in micro-management. “Instead, it (India) has ended up getting involved in petty issues like appointments of government personnel, which don’t necessarily add to the Government of India’s leverage. Nepal needs to get its politics right, India needs to get its policy, priorities and approach right,” said Bhattarai, who was Nepal Prime Minister from August 2011 to March 2013.

He cited India’s “inconsistent” message on issues like that of the Nepal constitution. “For the past year and a half, India has emphasised the issue of an inclusive constitution. But if this was a priority for India, why did it not help pro inclusion forces in the first Constituent Assembly?”.

He asserted that India seemed uninterested in getting a constitution under the Maoists. “At that point, pro inclusion forces were stronger, Maoists and Madhesis were in fact allies, I was Prime Minister and we felt that India was not very enthusiastic about seeing a constitution promulgated under the Maoists. When such forces became weak, a certain kind of constitution was pushed by regressive forces. Even then, for a long time, India did not send out a clear message,” said Bhattarai.

Inclusive constitution

India’s strong message that inclusive constitution was essential came in only when the statute was being promulgated in 2015. “It was when the constitution was being promulgated that the Indian establishment made clear that they thought an inclusive constitution was essential. By then, counter revolutionary forces had become dominant,” he said.

The first step to “restructure” relations between India and Nepa was to “recognise that there is a problem”.

“Let us admit there is trust deficit, that it comes from our perceptions of your desire to control Nepal and your perceptions of Nepal’s unreliability on security and strategic issues. Let us also acknowledge that Nepal is making a mistake by pushing through exclusionary politics in a diverse society and India has made mistakes in the way it has approached Nepali politics,” he noted.

Commenting on the current political scenario in Nepal, Bhattarai said that the right process should have been to first pass the constitution amendment and then conduct the local elections, which are scheduled for May.

“Unfortunately, we have seen the resurgence of ultra nationalism in Nepal, which seeks to exclude Madhesis from the national mainstream internally and blames India externally. This unhealthy nationalism now has wide resonance in Nepal’s hills, among the Khas Arya segment of our population. This is blocking the path to progressive constitutional amendment,” he said.

But, stopping the constitutional amendment could be dangerous by keeping out Madheshi forces.

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