Nepal's ruling coalition and the agitating Madhesis must work towards a compromise to prevent secessionist movement in the Terai region that will also be detrimental to the security interests of India, senior officials and experts in Delhi said.
The Narendra Modi government has suggested to both Deputy PM Kamal Thapa and Madhesi leaders, who visited Delhi recently, to reach a compromise on the demands raised in the agitation that has already lasted for 110 days.
People familiar with the developments apprehend that young Madhesis may intensify their struggle and even launch a secessionist movement that will also impact India's security interests. India has suggested that the warring parties work out a formula to establish federal structure to meet aspirations of all sections of the Nepali society.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told a group of visiting leaders from the Madhesi community on Sunday that India was for "broad based ownership" of the new Nepalese constitution and favoured a "speedy" political solution to the crisis. The Madhesis living in the Terai region of Nepal want better safeguards in the new constitution, which they claim discriminates against them.
India feels if the issue is not addressed effectively, it may snowball into a "huge problem" in the future, with the agitation assuming "separatist" dimensions. Demarcation of boundaries, distribution of political powers and ambiguity in grant of citizenship to Indian women marrying Nepalese men in Terai region were among major issues raised by the Madheshi community.
Under the current law, an Indian woman marrying a Nepalese man is granted citizenship of Nepal when she starts the process of giving up Indian citizenship. However, there is no clarity on the issue in the new constitution, according to Madheshi leaders. They said there are differences between the rights enjoyed by Nepalese born people and naturalised citizens.
Buying expensive oil from China is also not a sustainable long-term alternative for Nepal, the people cited earlier said. "Nepal had only tried to prove a point that it has other options available to meet its requirements," one of the experts said. Transporting fuel through the difficult Tibet region will push up costs of fuel 15-20 times, rendering the move economically unviable.
The agitation by Madheshis, who have blocked the trading points along the Indo-Nepal border for nearly four months now, has often turned violent and crippled supplies to the landlocked country, triggering acute shortage of essential commodities including fuel and medicines.