Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The Government of Nepal has tabled a bill in parliament to modify the country’s first secular constitution. Approved in September, the latter has generated protests by minority Madhese that have continued for the past 130 days in the Terai. As part of the process, the country’s provincial demarcations will be reviewed to meet minority demands.
India, which has backed minority objections by imposing a trade embargo on Nepal, welcomed the decision. However, New Delhi has not yet said whether it would resume unimpeded trade with its northern neighbour.
To achieve its goal, Nepal’s government has decided to set up a political body to draw up and submit a report on changes to the provincial boundaries outlined by the newly adopted constitution with acceptable recommendations for all sides within three months.
The goal is to enable minority participation in government institutions based on proportionate representation and the delineation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population.
On citizenship and other issues, the government said that the issues would be addressed later through negotiations and consensus-building.
Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa on Monday spoke with India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and informed him of the decisions of his government.
In a statement, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, “The Government of India welcomes these developments as positive steps that help create the basis for a resolution of the current impasse in Nepal.”
“As a neighbour and well-wisher,” the Ministry added, “India was deeply concerned at the unrest stemming from internal differences in Nepal on the constitution. India is confident that a return to normalcy in Nepal would create a more secure and predictable climate for unimpeded commerce between our two countries.”
The ministry also called on all political parties to show the necessary maturity and flexibility in finding a satisfactory solution, through a "constructive dialogue within the agreed timeframe”.
Still, minority leaders have cast some doubt on the government’s moves. "The government has taken a step forward, but we want to see the final result,” said Upendra Yadav, president of the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal. “If it really wants to talk seriously, we are ready to find a solution."
Likewise, another leader, Mahantha Thakur, said he was “hopeful but we do not trust them completely.” Hence, “We shall not drop our protest until we are convinced" of the outcome.