India’s concerns about China’s growing trade and infrastructure presence in Nepal are “ridiculous”, Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said in an exclusive interview to The Hindu here on Tuesday, a day after his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, concluded his visit here.
China has emerged as Nepal’s largest investor, even as rail and road links from Tibet are expected to boost trade at the cost of India’s goods.
Mr. Koirala said trade was part of bilateral relations and not about strategic influence. “When Mr. Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister, didn’t he visit China and negotiate for business? When he goes to the U.S. next month, will he not discuss agreements? Then why worry about Nepal’s relations with China?”
Commending Mr. Modi for his speech in Nepal’s Parliament, Mr. Koirala said that his words “have gone a long way in rebuilding trust here in Nepal”.Mr. Koirala said he was sure that the country’s much-delayed Constitution would be ready by January. “I am 100 per cent confident our Constitution will be ready by the January 22 deadline. The Constitution is our first priority, and we are working with all parties on this,” he said.
Mr. Modi advised Nepal’s Opposition leaders to put party politics aside to work towards a “federal, democratic constitution”.
'All contentious points with India will be solved'
Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala says he is confident that all contentious points between India and Nepal will be resolved in the near future, and he looks forward to hosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the SAARC Summit in November, which will usher in a “new era” for cooperation among South Asian nations.
One of the big announcements during Mr. Modi’s visit was the decision to update the 1950 India-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty. On Tuesday, Congress leader Manish Tewari demanded that the revised treaty must have full reciprocity, particularly in giving Indians the same property and employment rights that Nepal citizens enjoy in India.
In an exclusive interview to The Hindu, Mr. Koirala refused to commit to that change, saying only “We are aware of the concerns from India. They will be looked into when the question comes up. We want to take everyone on board.”
On the contentious point of delays in power and infrastructure projects in Nepal, Mr. Koirala said he was disappointed that two power and development agreements had not been signed during Mr. Modi’s visit, but the Indian government was not the only one to blame. On delay in road projects and the Mahakali bridge work promised by India years ago, he warned that the credibility of both the Indian and Nepal governments would suffer if these projects did not take off by the new timelines agreed to.
Mr. Koirala, 76, has been receiving treatment for cancer in the U.S. and had returned to Nepal only 10 days before Mr. Modi arrived. Despite his health condition, he went to the airport to receive and send off the Prime Minister, making an unprecedented break of protocol.