Government formation delay hits India-Nepal trade talks

July 1st, 2008 - 4:41 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 1 (IANS) Bilateral trade talks between India and Nepal have been put off indefinitely due to the delay in the formation of a new government in Nepal nearly three months after constituent assembly elections. The trade talks between the commerce secretaries of both countries, scheduled to kick off in New Delhi Wednesday, were postponed at the request of Nepali officials.

Nepal asked for the talks to be deferred as there is no government to give directions to the negotiations.

Though the election was held in April and Girija Prasad Koirala resigned as prime minister last month, the Maoists, who have emerged as the largest party after the polls, have not been able to form the new government due to differences among the major parties.

With Koirala’s Nepali Congress, the second largest party in the newly-elected constituent assembly, shying away from joining a Maoist-led government, the former guerrillas were struggling to muster the two-thirds majority required.

After protracted and often bitter negotiations, the ruling parties finally agreed last week to amend the constitution so that the new government could be formed on the basis of simple majority.

But when Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Bikram Nembang tried to table the amendment in the assembly Thursday, he was stopped by three regional parties from the Terai plains, who surrounded the rostrum and began loud protests.

The Terai parties kept the assembly paralysed for three more days since then, vowing not to allow any proceeding till their demands were met. They are demanding another change in the constitution so that an autonomous state can be created in the plains and plains people guaranteed inclusion in the army and other state agencies.

After five days of deadlock, an agreement was finally reached between the ruling parties and the Terai protesters Tuesday that is likely to see the assembly convene and push several amendments forward.

The seven ruling parties have agreed to call for an additional change in the constitution to address the Terai demands.

A three-member committee with representatives from the three major ruling parties was asked to draft the changes so that the cabinet can approve them for tabling in the house.

If the protests subside Tuesday, the Maoists will stake claim to the new government this week. They have already announced that their chief Prachanda will be the new prime minister of republic Nepal.

The parties will also have to elect the first president of Nepal to replace deposed king Gyanendra as head of state.

Finally, they will also have to nominate 26 new members to the constituent assembly to give it full shape. Though the constitution provides for a 601-member assembly, currently, it falls short of the number.

Only after the new government takes up the reins and the budget is announced will Nepal be in a position to propose fresh dates for the deferred trade negotiations.

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