KATHMANDU, Nov 28: Former foreign ministers, retired foreign secretaries and diplomats have suggested to the government to identify India's key concern with regard to recent political developments and take initiatives to reach an understanding with the big neighbor through political and diplomatic channels.
The foreign affairs veterans recommended various options for addressing the ongoing crisis at a meeting organized by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa, at the Foreign Ministry on Friday.
Thapa sought suggestions from the foreign ministers, foreign secretaries and ambassdors of the past and political party officials overseeing international affairs for their respective parties, on ending the ongoing crisis.
A majority of those airing their views during the meeting had suggested the government focus on identifying "the real concern" of the Indian side vis-à-vis Nepali's new constitution, the provincial boundaries or any other issue, if any.
Thapa, at the outset of the meeting, said the government was still unable to figure out what exactly it was that incurred the displeasure of the Indian side and brought about the ongoing blockade by the southern neighbor.
"It seems that India took strong action against Nepal as Nepali leaders, while writing the new constitution, didn't work as per the past commitments they had made to the Indian leadership," a participant in the meeting quoted Thapa as saying.
A majority of the participants then suggested to the minister to find what commitments, if any, the Nepali leaders had made to the Indians.
"As a friendly country, the Indian side should now disclose what the Nepali leaders' commitment to them was and also clearly share with Nepal India's major concerns," former minister Prakash Chandra Lohani said. "India should now share explicitly what are the issues that displeased it and mustn't torment the public just because certain leaders didn't live up to their words."
According to UML lawmaker Rajan Bhatttarai, most of the participants gave more emphasis to dialouge with the agitating Madhes-based political parties and settling the disputes with them.
They said the leadership of the major political parties haven't made sufficient, concerted and persistent efforts in the negotiations to resolve the disputes with the agitating parties.
Similarly, they also advised the minister to utilize multiple channels for communicating with India at this critical juncture.
"Nepal and India have connections at multiple levels. We have people-to-people and community-to-community contacts. Academics, professional groups and various other sections of society have their own unique relations but the government has failed to utilize these to normalize the situation," said Bhattarai.
Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former Nepali ambassador to India, drew the ministry's attention toward "our failure in identifying the root cause of the problem even though Nepal repeatedly faced similar blockades in the past as well." He suggested taking up more serious initiatives at the political and diplomatic levels.
Nepali Congress leader Ram Sharan Mahat emphasized the need to find a solution to the demands raised by Madhesi parties within the country. "He went on to say that we should go for a referendum to decide the disputes on provincial boundaries," said one participant.
RPP leader Pashupati Shamsher JB Rana stressed the need to learn from the crisis and indentify whether it is the outcome of Madhesi parties' dissatisfaction over the new constitution or that of Indian displeasure.
Jitendra Dev of Federal Socialist Forum Nepal advised the ministry to study if the Indians became angry because of the Nepali side's failure to seek proper consultations with them before taking key decisions during the integration of Maoist combatants into the army and finalization of the new constitution. "Because India claims to be a stakeholder in Nepal's constitution making and the peace process.." a participant quoted Dev as saying at the meeting.
However, some of the participants were for Nepal boldly internationalizing the issue, with a view to piling pressure on India.
In response, Thapa clarified that India had reportedly suggested to Nepali leaders to finalize the provincial borders based on mutual understanding among all key political actors before promulgating the new constitution.
"The decision to produce a new constitution without the provincial borders was changed keeping this in mind and Nepali leaders thought that decision would satisfy all sides," said Thapa. "But sadly it didn't work out that way."
Similarly, the Indian side had requested Nepal to halt the constitution making process for around two weeks at the last stages but that couldn't happen because the CA process had already reached a point where no decision could be revised.
Despite all this, Thapa during his recent India visit was assured of help in the resumption of supplies. "After the visit, I was pretty optimistic about India resuming the supplies, but that didn't happen," Thapa said at the meeting.
Published on: My Republica (November 28, 2015)