Asserting that there had been 'gaps' on India's side in dealing with neighbours, Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has said PM Narendra Modi's visit to Nepal from Sunday offers an opportunity to 'rebuild trust'.
In an exclusive interview to HT at his official residence in Kathmandu, Koirala also sought India's 'moral and political' support for the constitution writing process; said there would be a 'breakthrough' in the area of hydropower cooperation; and the trip would offer an opportunity to deepen links with the next generation of Indian political leaders.
"The fact that there has been no Indian prime ministerial visit for 17 years to Nepal contributed to the perception of neglect," said Koirala. In this context, Modi's focus on the neighbourhood and realisation that better ties with SAARC countries is essential for India's own rise is welcome, he added.
Koirala, who had been undergoing cancer treatment in US, said he had repeatedly invited Modi, who had assured him that he will pay a visit soon. "I am happy he is coming. I will personally go to the airport to receive him. We hope that Modi through the visit will be able to convince Nepalis that India is committed to peace, stability and democracy in the region...Trust building is key thing in this visit."
Koirala also said that as the world's largest democracy, India must offer 'political and moral support' to the constitution writing process in Nepal. "We have fought for democracy, freedom and rule of law since 1951...There is now a big change and Nepal is seeking to preserve and institutionalise a Federal Democratic Republic."
While explaining there were differences on issues like the form of government and nature of federalism, Koirala said they had to take everyone along. "Ethnic groups, Madhesis, Muslims, women are all aware about their rights, identity, language. This is good. Everyone's rights can be preserved only in a democratic framework." And India, he added, had a role in supporting these achievements.
Koirala recalled that during his conversation with Modi after his swearing in, the Indian PM had asked him what were the two things which needed to be done for Nepal, and he would like to help do so in a 'time-bound manner'. "We have prepared for it. Hydropower cooperation, the construction of the Postal Road in Tarai, and of the Mid Hill highway are on the agenda."
Despite tremendous potential, Nepal has not been able to harness its hydropower resources. But Koirala said this will be a 'turning point' and there would be a 'breakthrough'. "I am determined to push ahead on this agenda…I am convinced that in 8-10 years, Nepal can take a great leap." A power trading agreement, which would guarantee India as the market for surplus power and reassure investors, is on the anvil.
The Nepal PM also recalled that the earlier generation of Nepali and Indian political leaders had close links. "Our leaders had a personal rapport with Atalji and Advanij. Now we can build trust with the new generation of leaders. Our government to government, party to party and people to people links must be deepened."