Enough Is Enough : Narayan Upadhyay
The standoff between the agitating Madhesi Front and the government has taken its deep toll on the people's everyday life. Following the failure of the latest round of talks between the government and the Madhesi Front, the latter has warned that they would intensify their more than two-month-long protests in the Terai districts. The warning from the Madhesi Front, and the subsequent disturbances in several Terai districts, which witnessed the death of an Indian national allegedly taking part in the Front-led protests, have worsened the matter further.
Many in the nation are highly aware that the Madheshi Front-led protest could not have reached such a status had they not been openly supported by our southern neighbour. As an undeniable sign of its strong support to the Madhesis, India has tightened its noose against Nepal by imposing an unofficial blockade, much to the detriment of the Nepali economy and well-being of the common Nepali masses. No one, barring a few Madhesi leaders, expected India would come out openly in support of the Nepali Madhesi parties, which is nothing but meddling in Nepal's affairs, though the Indian side has denied outright such allegations.
People living across the nation have felt the pinch of India's undeclared blockade, imposed under various ruses. The blockade has disturbed the smooth entry of essential supplies, most importantly the scant supply of petroleum and cooking gas into Nepal, which has been a major cause of concern for a small nation like Nepal. As the supply depleted and Indian side did not relent on its stand, the Nepali authority sought support from China for the supply of petroleum products, which is now trickling into Nepal.
Though the fast changing political scenario in the nation has not augured well for the new government, it would certainly serve well for the KP Oli government to take the agitating Madhesis into confidence and resume meaningful dialogue with them. Since some of the major impending tasks - the election of president, speaker and formation of the government - have come to its fruition now, the government should initiate a result-oriented meaningful dialogue with the agitating parties to end the long running political trouble that has even given great hardships to every single Nepali in recent times.
No denying that the government has a larger responsibility to resolve the crisis. At the same time, the agitating Madheshi leaders too have the same level of responsibility on their shoulders to get their problems addressed in an amicable way. The government needs to have a rethink on some of the pressing Madhesi demands, such as the redrawing of provinces and reconsidering the number of constituencies in the Terai based on population to address many of the Madhesi concerns.
The agitating parties should also be aware that not all of their demands can be fulfilled. They should not pile up unnecessary pressure on the Nepali government and political parties to meet their demands through pressure, just because they have been enjoying support from the neighbour that has all the power to incapacitate the nation through the blockade of essentials using fair and foul means.
The Madhesi leaders must also be aware that their long running protests, overtly supported by India, have raised many questions regarding their allegiance to their own nation. Likewise, they must be considerate about the outcome of the unnecessarily long protests. Barring a few Madhesi elites, who have enough access to resources, the long protests have proved more detrimental to the people of the Terai districts.
As the protests in the Terai have caused enough trouble to the common masses due to a dearth of daily essentials, both sides need to be very thoughtful about the outcome of their standoff. Do they want to see Nepal as a strong, vibrant sovereign state or as a weak and poor state that needs outside meddling in its internal affairs to settle all its problems?
It is high time the major coalition partners and the agitating forces sat down for a meaningful dialogue by shedding some of their urges and grudges, though it appears an uphill task because external forces have started taking utmost interest in our internal affairs. Apart from stopping such outside forces from interfering, both sides must be careful about the trial and tribulations of the general masses who have been suffering for the past several weeks. Landlocked Nepal is now at the mercy of India for its daily essentials, and India is very reluctant to open its border points, though it has denied that it has imposed any blockade on the goods entering Nepal.
In the meantime, talks are making the rounds that Nepal should play the "China card" against the Indian attitude to Nepal. Many anguished Nepali hearts swelled when China readily accepted Nepal's request to provide petroleum products. Nepal even signed an agreement as per which it would bring 33 per cent of the required fuel from the northern neighbour. The bearhug is indeed warm, but would it be wise for a nation to go into the Chinese embrace just to anger its southern neighbour, who does not see eye-to-eye with China?
Expand trade relations
It would be prudent for Nepal to seek support from as many countries as possible during a crisis as the one prevailing at the moment. Our leaders and bureaucrats must exhibit courage to look beyond India and China. As a sovereign and independent nation, Nepal should establish bilateral or multilateral trade relations with nations with which it can negotiate under any eventuality. But to do this, the Nepalese government and political parties must first keep their house in order. Both sides must now be able to say enough is enough and let their problems be resolved through honest and well negotiated dialogue.