It takes two to tango

  • It’s time both Kathmandu and New Delhi reviewed their positions, found solutions

Nov 9, 2015-

The parties in the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM), which had been boycotting the parliamentary process and protesting on the streets in recent weeks, have now decided to rejoin Parliament. On the first day on their return to Parliament, they chanted slogans and disrupted proceedings. Nonetheless, this is a positive step. It indicates that they are still committed to the broad political framework, as exists in this country and are keen to reach a negotiated settlement to their dispute with the ruling parties.

The ruling parties should take the Morcha’s return to Parliament as a gesture of goodwill. It would be a mistake to think that the Morcha was forced to return as they were too weak to enforce their will through the streets. It would also be a mistake if the ruling parties think they can now get away with maintaining a hardline position in negotiations. It has to be clear that the crisis in the Tarai remains severe and there is no alternative but to resolve it through negotiations and constitutional amendments. The Morcha’s return to Parliament, however, will mean little if—first of all, the major parties fail to engage them; second, the Morcha remains divided in its reading that talks will ultimately be the best course to resolve the constitutional clauses they have had issues with.

Still, it has to be stated here that we are worried by the government’s inaction, ineptitude and its failure to communicate the way out of the current stalemate—the standoff with India and the unrest in the Tarai. The fact that Prime Minister Oli has had to appoint so many people to the Cabinet (including six deputy ministers) indicates that this government seems more focused in dispensing patronage than addressing the fundamental crises facing the country. We are also worried about the fact that the people currently in power fail to realise the gravity of conflagration in the Tarai for the country. While we do understand that a legitimately elected prime minister should stand his ground, we also like to see the new chief executive offer solutions out of the current crisis. We most certainly urge him, once again, to reach out to the Madhesi population. Bashing India has its limits and people expect those in high offices to resolve problems, not just engage in rabble-rousing rhetoric.  

The problems at the border points have become extremely complex but the Madhesi grievances cannot be just brushed aside as a voice of a fringe force. Indeed, what has not helped is the fact that India has played a significant role in blocking supplies to Nepal, and this has only created fertile ground for Nepali politicians to stoke anti-India sentiments. What worries us most is that, over time, this could have a highly damaging impact, for example, by leading to a breakdown in communal relations.

We urge the ruling coalition to deal with the situation with sobriety and maturity. We also urge New Delhi to change its approach to resolving the Madhesi problem. It has to realise that its actions are leading to greater polarisation in Nepal and a possible breakdown in social relations. Rather than trying to coerce the government, India should change tack. It should first ease the blockade. And it should, at the same time, prod the government and the Madhesi parties to hold and stick to dialogue, and that dialogue ultimately remains the only solution. Only if all sides step back on their belligerence and demonstrate a renewed commitment to dialogue can the current crisis be defused.

Published: 09-11-2015 08:26

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