Border blockade a dark episode: Nepal

Nepal wants to prioritise infrastructure projects and imrpove trade ties with India, says Prakash Sharan Mahat.

Updated - November 01, 2016 06:17 pm IST

Published - September 13, 2016 03:37 pm IST - New Delhi

Resetting the terms of engagement between India and Nepal, Kathmandu’s Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat on Tuesday demanded introspection on the months-long blockade that hurt Nepal’s economy.

Without blaming any particular stakeholder for the blockade, Mr. Mahat said that both India and Nepal had agreed to use diplomatic channels more intensely in future to avoid such jolts to bilateral ties.

“Both sides need to introspect on what caused the blockade. We are trying to move ahead from the setback of the blockade and are determined to prevent misunderstandings with India that might harm our people,” Mr. Mahat said during an interaction at the end of his visit to Delhi.

During the September 11 to 13 visit, he firmed up the agenda of the upcoming India visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda,” and met with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj. He also held talks with BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, senior Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi and a host of political and diplomatic interlocutors.

Mr. Mahat said that Nepal wanted to prioritise infrastructure projects and better trade ties with India. “Nepal needs market access from India. Without more access to the Indian market sympathetic investors are unable come in to Nepal. Lack of investment to Kathmandu is hurting Nepal-India economic ties,” said Mr. Mahat announcing that Pancheshwar dam and road networks in the Terai region were likely to feature in talks between Mr Prachanda and Prime Minister Modi in Delhi.

The present round of visits from Nepal began when Deputy Prime Minister Bimalendra Nidhi visited India on August 18, after the new coalition government in Kathmandu took charge replacing the government of K.P. Sharma Oli.

Envoy returns

Mr. Mahat’s visit also coincided with the return of Deep Kumar Upadhyay to Delhi, the Nepali ambassador whom Mr. Oli had recalled. Mr. Oli’s government had blamed India repeatedly for supporting the pro-blockade Madhesi parties of Nepal. Madhesi parties, partners in the present government, had demanded a strict timeline from Mr. Prachanda for fulfilling the promise of constitutional amendments and territorial demarcation of Nepal.

Mr. Mahat refused to adhere to a timeline but said that the process of addressing the grievances of the Madhesi population of Nepal’s Terai region has begun. “It is an issue that needs to be completed through the internal political process of Nepal,” he said highlighting that the Constitution might not be perfect but was dynamic and the issue of amendments is “completely internal issue of Nepal.”

Mr. Mahat said the government of Mr. Prachanda would be different from that of Mr. Oli as it would conduct ties through established and uninterrupted channels. But he said that Kathmandu would engage with bigger neighbours like India and China without neglecting Nepali national interest.

“We are looking forward to a visit from Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and are hopeful that Chinese President Xi Jinping too will visit Kathmandu in near future,” Mr. Mahat said indicating that Nepal will remain equally engaged with both the ‘northern neighbour’ China, and ‘southern neighbour’ India.

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