A day ahead of his first official visit to India, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said on Thursday his government wants close ties with both New Delhi and Beijing.
Oli, known as someone with a pro-China tilt, said he doesn’t believe in using one neighbour against another.
“We want to maintain and strengthen friendly ties with both India and China and move ahead based on mutual respect and benefit,” he told journalists during a briefing about his visit to India beginning on Friday.
“I am not a card player or a gambler and I don’t believe in playing cards,” he said while replying to a query on how he would balance ties between the bigger and economically powerful neighbours.
Oli’s government has been accused of trying to play the China card against India by trying to ink long-term agreements on importing petroleum products from the northern neighbour.
India is the sole distributor of fuel to Nepal, but a border blockade imposed by Madhesis unhappy with the country’s new Constitution affected supplies and forced Kathmandu to look for other options.
After a request from Nepal, China provided 1.3 million litres of petrol as a grant in October to tide over a fuel shortage caused by the blockade. Nepal’s attempts to secure a long-term agreement have not been succeeded because of tax and logistical issues.
With the Madhesi parties ending the border blockade earlier this month, the supply of petroleum products from India has resumed and the issue of getting fuel from China put on the backburner.
Oli and his government had accused India of imposing an unofficial blockade to support the Madhesis and the prime minister had contemplated breaking tradition by going to Beijing first instead of New Delhi.
But with India welcoming the amendment of the Constitution to accommodate the demands of Madhesis and the lifting of the blockade, relations between New Delhi and Kathmandu are slowly returning to normal.
“My visit will focus on bringing ties back on track. There should be no misgivings on India’s part about our friendship,” Oli said.
Oli is expected to visit Beijing next month but an itinerary is yet to be finalised.