India hails Nepal’s constitutional amendments

Nepalese parliamentarians gesture while voting to pass a long-delayed bill in Kathmandu on December 16, 2015.  Nepal's parliament has passed long-delayed legislation which will pave the way for rebuilding after April's massive earthquake, ending months of bickering that paralysed reconstruction efforts despite donors pledging billions in aid. AFP PHOTO/ Prakash MATHEMA / AFP / PRAKASH MATHEMA        (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

In a bid to defuse the deadlock over the Madhesi issue, Nepal’s Parliament endorsed two constitutional amendment bills on January 23. Hailing the development as positive in an official statement, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, “We regard the two amendments passed yesterday by the Nepali Parliament as positive developments. We hope that other outstanding issues are similarly addressed in a constructive spirit”.

Ahead of Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s visit to India in February, India and Nepal are working towards reinvigorating bilateral ties. The bilateral relations between the two countries had taken a hit in recent times with the blockade at the Raxaul-Birgunj border by the agitating Madhesi group in Nepal impacting trade between the two countries. While Nepal has blamed India for the blockade, it is the internal dispute in Nepal that has blocked the border regions between the two countries.

Nepal’s parliament meeting on the night of January 23 endorsed First Amendment to the Constitution. It amended three Articles of the constitution, which include Article 42 (social justice), Article 84 (formation of House of Representatives) and Article 286 (Electoral Constituency Delineation Commission). There were 461 lawmakers who voted in favour of the amendment while seven voted against it.

The amendments include commitments on participation in government institutions on the basis of proportionate inclusiveness and a new process of delineation of electoral constituencies on the basis of population. The Madhesi groups protesting against the new constitution did not participate in the voting on January 23.

The Madhesi leaders struck a positive note, but pushed for a maximal acceptance of their demands.

“The amendment process is a step in the right direction. But it has not addressed the core issue of creating two provinces for Madhesi people on the 1200-km-long plains of Nepal bordering India,” said Rajendra Mahato of the United Madhesi Democratic Front.

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