Kathmandu : As an indefinite strike clamped by Nepal’s opposition Maoist party continued to paralyse the nation for the fourth consecutive day Wednesday, embattled Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal sought a meeting with the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, and other envoys to project the government’s view-point about the new crisis.
The prime minister will brief the heads of all diplomatic missions in Kathmandu, including the Indian and Chinese ambassadors, representatives of EU states, the US and UN agencies, Nepal’s political advisor Rajan Bhattarai said.
In order to be able to hold the meeting, the prime minister skipped going to office at the Singha Durbar complex, where the Maoists began a blockade from 5 a.m.
Other ministers were instructed to be present in their offices in the building from dawn to avoid a confrontation with the protesters, who have vowed to adopt stronger measures after three days of street rallies failed to make the prime minister quit.
Nepal’s meeting with the foreign envoys comes as they have been expressing mounting concern, not just at the inability of the ruling parties and the protesters to reach an agreement but also at a constitutional crisis rushing closer.
Nepal needs to promulgate a new constitution by May 28, failing which parliament and the government will stand dissolved, pushing the country into chaos and probable rule of emergency.
The only way out is to reach an understanding with the Maoists and amend the constitution so that the deadline is extended by six months.
UN and British officials have already accepted the fact that a new constitution will not materialise by May 28 and asked the government to amend the constitution as early as possible to stave off the imminent chaos.
However, the Maoists Wednesday reiterated their demand that the prime minister should step down first.
The ruling parties, on the other hand, are asking the former rebels to first call off their protest that has lost the state billions of rupees in revenue and caused untold hardship to millions of people.
India is especially concerned as major Indian companies in Nepal, like ITC’s joint venture and Dabur India’s subsidiary have remained shut since Sunday along with hundreds of other industries. Also, hundreds of Indian tourists have become stranded and are being evacuated by security forces.
The Maoists are alleging that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged support for the Nepal government on the sidelines of the 16th SAARC Summit in Bhutan. This, they say, stiffened the Nepal PM’s resolve not to step down.
As India remained impassive to the allegations and the ongoing protests, Nepal’s northern neighbour China commented on the situation.
“We sincerely hope the Nepali political forces will take the national interest into consideration, hold dialogue, coordinate, and seek a political consensus,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a regular briefing in Beijing Tuesday.
“It is what is in Nepal’s fundamental interest, and what is good for regional peace and stability,” she said.