One abbreviation hogged headlines the past week in Nepal — it was MRP or machine readable passports.
The scrapping of a deal by Nepal to procure MRPs from India threatened existence of the Madhav Kumar Nepal government and left opinions divided. The episode also left a bitter aftertaste in Indo-Nepal relations.
India reacted by expressing regret at politicisation of the issue and leaking of a confidential letter on the deal written by Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood to Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala.
Meanwhile, Nepal missed the April 1 International Civil Aviation Organisation deadline to provide MRPs to its citizens. While plans are afoot to start fresh bidding for supply of these passports, many questions from the botched deal with India remain unanswered.
Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal told the Public Accounts Committee of parliament that the deal to supply four million passports at $4 each was given to an Indian government firm in view of diplomatic and political relations between the two countries.
But there is no explanation why the contract was awarded without following rules or taking into account bids made by other suppliers. The PM needs to make public the compulsions that forced his government to hand over the deal to India.
The fact that such a letter got leaked puts question marks on functioning of Nepal’s foreign ministry and also raises doubts among the diplomatic community whether their letters written in confidentiality would also make way to parliament.
Sood in his letter had mentioned that awarding of the contract to India would address the southern neighbour’s security concerns because of an open border with Nepal. He needs to explain what these concerns are and how would the deal have helped addressing them.
Last but not the least, the Maoists need to explain its exact stand on India.