Rejecting the allegation of adopting “big brotherly” approach towards Nepal, India on Monday said it respects its sovereignty and wants to see the neighbouring country itself resolve the present crisis through consensus as violence could have impact even on India.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj rubbished the charge that India was imposing a blockade of supplies even as she asserted that Narendra Modi government would follow the policy of the previous government with regard to Nepal.
Replying to a debate in Rajya Sabha on India-Nepal relations during which members expressed concern over the deterioration in ties; she said the government shares their sentiments as also the worries of Nepal which has been hit by a blockade of supplies from India due to an agitation by Madhesis over the newly-adopted Constitution.
“Still a way can be found… We are doing the same… We want to see a resolution through consensus so that supplies could be restored at the earliest,” Swaraj said adding India has conveyed this the Nepal government as well as the agitating Madhesis. “We hope some solution will emerge in 5-7 days,” she said.
To the allegations that India was adopting a “big brotherly” approach, the minister said, “instead, we are adopting an elderly brother’s approach, a caring and sharing approach.”
Rejecting the charge of interference into the neighbour’s affairs, she said, “Nepal is a sovereign country and we respect its sovereigntyl. We are not prescriptive but only give advice.”
“Like elder brother, our attitude is that of caring and sharing and not of showing arrogance, which a big brother does,” Swaraj said.
Allaying apprehensions voiced by JD-U leader Sharad Yadav, the External Affairs Minister said there is no need to have any doubts over the government’s intentions.
“The present government will also follow the same path on which previous governments have handled Nepal. There is no difference between the deeds and actions of the government. This government does what is speaks,” she said.
She also said India is worried also because if the agitation by Madhesis turns violent, it will affect this country.
“We told them this that if there is any violent agitation, then India’s peaceful border with Nepal will be restless and this could affect India’s relations with Nepal…We told them, this border of ours at least is peaceful. We do not want this also to be volatile,” she said.
During her speech, Swaraj attacked Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar for making some adverse comments about India’s role and for suggesting that rather than the External Affairs Minister, somebody “authoritarian” was dictating the policy, an apparent attack on the Prime Minister.
“Mani has the habit of creating rifts. He has tried to create a rift between me and my leaders.. He also tried to create rift with Nepal,” she said.
Countering the charge that India was blocking supplies to Nepal, Swaraj said routes have been closed because of the protest by Madhesis in which India has no role.
“Who can be so foolish to turn goodwill into hostility? How can we collect lakhs of people for protest?… We are keen to send the supplies,” she said, while telling the members not to accept versions to the contrary.
“We are not inhuman… 11,206 trucks, loaded with supplies, are waiting at the Raxaul-Birganj border post. They are not able to move forward because of the protest and we are not allowing them to come back, thinking they could get some chance to proceed,” she said.
At the same time, she said, India is looking at alternative routes to send supplies like medicines. 864 trucks have gone into Nepal from one such route yesterday, compared to 450 trucks which usually go.
She said clearing of the routes is not in the hands of India. “We can push the supplies either by firing at the protestors or crushing them under the trucks. Both are not desirable,” Swaraj said, adding “we are trying to find a political consensus.”
Swaraj also said the government was willing to send aParliamentary delegation to Nepal. “We share your sentiments… Government shares the sentiments of the House.
We are also concerned with the atmosphere there and hope a solution is found out,” she said.
“We are moving forward to a solution through mutual talks so that Madhesis also get justice and the people of Nepal who are suffering due to the crisis of commodities also get relief,” she added.
Hitting back at Congress for questioning the government’s handling of the situation, Swaraj said such a blockade had taken place earlier also during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure which lasted for over a year between March 1989 and June 1990.
At the same time, she also said Nepal had “suddenly” adopted the Constitution “in two days without any debate”, making two amendments in the interim Constitution of 2007, which made the Madhesis to feel that they have lost all rights in that country.
She said India had been engaged with all political parties of Nepal in the framing of the Constitution since January this year but was surprised when it was suddenly announced in August that it had been adopted.
India then told Nepal to nullify the two amendments before promulgation of the Constitution and the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala had seen reason in this and done so.
Rejecting the charge that India had sent its Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar as if he was “Lord Curzon”, Swaraj said he had gone only to convey concerns that if the agitation turns violent, it would affect India too.
Earlier, cutting across party lines, members pitched for ensuring immediate supplies of essential goods to Nepal and asked the government to improve the ties.