US, India urge restraint in Nepal constitutional debate
WASHINGTON – The United States and India have called for security forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests over the drawing up of a new constitution in Nepal and for citizens to avoid violence.
A statement from the US State Department on Monday said the new constitution should have the broadest possible support and reflect fundamental rights such as gender equality and basic freedoms.
“We urge citizens to engage through peaceful, non-violent means, and call on the Nepali security forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests,” the statement said.
Nepal’s large southern neighbour India also called for restraint after 30 people were killed since a draft constitution was unveiled last month.
Violent protests against the charter intensified in Nepal’s southern plains last week with demonstrators attacking police who shot dead at least four people.
“Horrific violence has once again shaken Nepal’s soul,” the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement overnight. “Whether the victims are Nepali citizens or government officials, the blood spilt in all the incidents was Nepalese.”
Nepal, which emerged from civil war in 2006, is in the final stages of preparing a new constitution that would carve the country of 28 million people into seven federal provinces.
Many people in the southern plains bordering India oppose the plan which would split their narrow region and merge the pieces into larger provinces with other ethnic groups.
New Delhi said all political forces should show flexibility so that “any outstanding issues are addressed through dialogue and widest possible agreement, in an atmosphere free from violence.”
Proponents of the new constitution say it is needed to increase political stability and boost economic development in the Himalayan nation, still reeling from two devastating earthquakes that killed 8,900 people this year. -Reuters