After the end to the brief but traumatic reign of King Gyanendra, in the first ever historic meeting of the Constituent Assembly (CA) on 28 May 2008, Nepal was formally declared as a Federal Democratic Republic. It was followed by Nepal’s efforts to draft a new constitution of its own. However two year later, on the same date, the CA of Nepal failed to deliver the country’s long awaited constitution, by the set deadline. The new constitution was seen as an end to the decade old civil war and an effort to preserve a multi-party democracy. However, the passing of the deadline with no concrete result has diminished the high hopes of the Nepalese people generated during the general elections.
Meanwhile, Nepal’s three biggest parties — the Maoists, the Nepali Congress (NC), and the Unified Marxists-Leninists CPN (UML) - agreed to breathe life into the CA and a three-point agreement was drawn. According to the accord, the three parties agreed, first, to bring a logical end to the peace process and accomplish the historical goal of drafting a new Constitution; committed to accomplish duties in consensus and in unity. Second, to extend the tenure of the CA by one year. Third, to form a National Unity government in consensus and ensure that the Prime Minister of the current coalition government is ready to extend his resignation.
With numerous predicaments in front of the nascent republic, the rise of ‘New Nepal’ aspirations continue to battle for their emergence, in the face of continuous conflict and unresolved differences among political forces, delay in making of the new constitution, bewildering political and legal tangles, widespread corruption, indefinite general strikes, escalated political violence, ethnic conflicts and so on. Living under the state of persistent disorder and power struggle, the purpose and emoluments of the peace process and the general elections seem to be defeated. Highlighting the key reason behind the ongoing political mayhem, in an exclusive email interaction with IPCS, Former Ambassador of India to Nepal, KV Rajan said, “The root of the problem is the trust deficit between the key parties, which poses a serious threat to peace apart from being the major obstacle to writing the constitution.”
Given the present dilemma, the question which requires immediate consideration from the Indian perspective is - what the Indian government’s policy should be towards Nepal. Should New Delhi play an active role or should it just act as a silent spectator in the purlieu? Pointing to the role of India in the Nepal’s current situation, KV Rajan emphasized that India should use its leverage to bring the parties together on a common minimum programme so that the Constitution is written in time and the next election could be held in an environment of peace and stability.
Accentuating on India’s role, distinguished academician SD Muni, Visiting Senior Research Fellow of Institute of South Asian Studies, in an exclusive email interaction with IPCS said, “Indian policy should aim at re-building national consensus in Nepal to facilitate the writing of a new and democratic Constitution during the extended period of the CA.” In his opinion, India should desist from its fixation of keeping the Maoists marginalized in the power structure. Pointing at the role of Maoists, he opined that the Maoists should shed off their militant structures but that should be accompanied by the whole gamut of security sector reforms in Nepal and the grounding of democratic values among the other mainstream parties like NC and the CPN (UML).
Commenting on Nepal’s recent development in an exclusive electronic interaction with IPCS, Anjali Sharma, Associate Fellow, Observer Research Foundation said that, “Nepal as a country has become very important these days given the heightened political tensions among the leaders of the three major parties of Nepal.” While elaborating on India’s role, she opined that India has been adopting a hands-off approach towards a crisis-ridden Nepal. Although, almost all Nepali leaders pay regular homage to the South Block and there may have been some covert initiatives taken by India to resolve the crisis, no overt intervention on the part of India can be said to be forthcoming in the near future. She further suggested that the only option left for India is to 'wait and watch' to see how the things unfold in the near future in Nepal. Like in Sri Lanka, India should only advice Nepal as and when it seeks our advice.
There is no doubt that the failure of the CA to frame the new constitution has become one of the toughest challenges to the basic architecture of the 2006 peace deal. Since the internal political turmoil continues to ravage the tiny Himalayan state, it has become essential not only for New Delhi, but also for the international community to see that Kathmandu gets full assistance in its nation building efforts. In the meantime, India should play a more positive role in assisting Nepal, in order to overcome its present political impasse. For India, a stable Nepal is essential to maintain strong political, economic and social ties between the neighbouring countries.