Nepal hurt, Sushma says sorry

Kathmandu criticises Minister for saying it was Indians who attended a Modi event in Janakpur

May 29, 2018 10:54 pm | Updated May 30, 2018 07:50 am IST - NEW DELHI

 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj

Nepal on Tuesday said a comment made by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on a public meeting attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on its territory was “unfortunate”.

The official statement came a day after the Minister, at her annual press conference, commented about Mr. Modi’s recent event at Janakpur in Nepal, which gave the impression that the Nepal citizens at the meeting were part of the Indian diaspora with extraterritorial allegiance to the Indian leader.

“The reference made about the public participation at the civic felicitation programme held in honour of the Prime Minister of India in Janakpur on 11 May 2018 was unfortunate. It has come to the notice of the Government of Nepal that she has publicly admitted her mistake and apologised for the same,” said a statement from the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal.

PM’s outreach

In the course of the press conference, Ms. Swaraj pointed out that Prime Minister Modi had led a campaign of outreach to Indian citizens living abroad.

Comparing Mr. Modi with his predecessors, the Minister said, “Narendra Modi is the first Prime Minister of India who has reached out to lakhs of Indians from Madison Square Garden of America to Janakpur.”

Mr. Modi had addressed a large public gathering in Janakpur during his May 11 visit to Nepal. The statement gave the impression that India was not sincere about Nepal’s sovereignty.

However, Ms. Swaraj apologised for the mix-up and said, “This was a mistake on my part. I sincerely apologise for this.”

Responding to Ms. Swaraj, the spokesperson said, “Social cohesion and harmony characterise the Nepali way of life that is reflective of national unity among people living in all regions, which should be respected by all.”

‘It is regrettable’

Soon after the press conference in Delhi, Nepali Congress leader and former Minister Gagan Thapa took on Ms. Swaraj and said, “It is regrettable that India’s External Affairs Minister described Janakpur’s population that Narendra Modi greeted as Indians. One wonders what the confusion was or if this was casual undermining of Nepal’s sovereignty. He got support from veteran politician and interlocutor for Nepal, D.P. Tripathi, who said, “PM Modi addressed a rally for Nepali citizens. But terming them as Indian nationals is wrong.”

Janakpur is in the plains of Nepal and is considered the birthplace of Sita. It is also part of the Mithila region that stretches till Bihar. Nepal had blamed India for protests in the region that Kathmandu described as an attack on its sovereignty.

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