Pokhara (Nepal): Worried about Nepal not moving fast enough to address the remaining demands of the Madheshi movement, India, for the first time, explicitly linked political stability as a key requirement for development, especially in the post-earthquake reconstruction phase.
India’s statement was delivered at the adoption of the report of the Working Group on the Universal Period Review in United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, March 17.
“Right to development is a fundamental human right. A climate of political stability, consensus and predictability is a pre-requisite for Nepal’s socio-economic development, particularly in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in April 2015,” India’s statement said.
Further, New Delhi urged for “strong national consensus,” claiming the right to express concern on the basis of being the largest donor, at $1 billion, for Nepal’s post-quake reconstruction efforts.
“As the principal donor in global support for Nepal’s post-earthquake reconstruction, India urges a strong national consensus in Nepal on its political and developmental agenda,” said the Indian statement.
While there has been implied advice to Kathmandu before on the need for political stability, sources said that this was the first time that a straight link to development has been made by India.
“We regard the two Constitutional amendments passed by the Nepali Parliament in January 2016 as positive developments. We hope that other remaining issues will be similarly addressed in a constructive spirit in a defined timeframe,” the Indian statement said.
The need for a “defined timeframe” to establish political stability was also mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Oli visit to India last month. The visit was aimed at resetting bilateral ties after relations had gone south over the last six months.
India’s message was delivered publicly in Geneva even as External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is in Pokhara for the SAARC inter-summit ministerial meeting. After the official gala dinner, Swaraj held a long one-on-one discussion with Oli at his hotel, after which she held talks with Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa at the Pokhara Grande hotel.
Earlier on March 15, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had held discussions with Oli, new Nepal Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, senior Nepali politician Baburam Bhattarai and a Madheshi delegation.
Nepal’s parliament amended the Constitution in January to allow for reservations in several state bodies, as well as the delimitation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population.
On February 18, Oli announced that a high-level 11-member committee would be set up to delineate boundaries of new provinces – a main demand of the Madheshis, who had for five months stopped supplies from India, crippling the Nepalese economy.
Nearly a month since the announcement, the terms of reference of the committee are yet to be spelled out, nor have any members besides the chair, DPM Thapa, been named
For India, this is the key domestic process that has to move forward to show that Nepal is sincere in meeting demands of the Madheshi political parties.
India has used the UNHRC platform last year too to target Nepal for failing to stay true to its words.
On November 5, India’s acting permanent representative, BN Reddy, had expressed concerns by human rights bodies over continuing reports of extra-judicial killings and ethnic discrimination. “Problems facing Nepal are political in nature and cannot be resolved through force or a security-based approach,” he said, noting that India was “concerned at lack of political progress”.
India had also asked Nepal to “ensure effective functioning of Truth and Reconciliation Commission and full implementation of its recommendations, including prosecution of those responsible for violent insurgency”.
Given that Nepal had not reacted favourably to Indian criticism last November, India’s prodding in Geneva was may further irk its neighbour.