Erred in past, but committed to ties with India, Nepal PM tells Modi
Nepal’s newly elected Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, has sent a message to PM Narendra Modi, admitting errors in the past, reaffirming his commitment to friendship with India, promising efforts to forge an inclusive constitutional settlement, and seeking closer development cooperation.world Updated: Aug 20, 2016 21:15 IST
Nepal’s newly elected Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, has sent a message to PM Narendra Modi, admitting errors in the past, reaffirming his commitment to friendship with India, promising efforts to forge an inclusive constitutional settlement, and seeking closer development cooperation.
In a meeting with Modi, Prachanda’s special envoy and Nepal’s deputy PM and home minister Bimalendra Nidhi said his PM wanted to convey he had made mistakes in the past since he was not experienced in the ways of open politics. But he was now committed to friendship with India.
“The PM is aware that Nepal’s development is not possible without cooperation with India, and wants to convey his deep commitment to the relationship,” said Nidhi, according to a top official present at the meeting.
Modi, in return, said that Nepal has a “special place” in his heart, and India would do everything possible to assist Nepal to fulfil its aspirations. He also referred to Prachanda’s upcoming visit to India — tentatively scheduled for September 15-18.
“Please tell the PM that while the government will of course welcome him, I will personally welcome him to India,” Modi told Nidhi, another official at the meeting told HT.
Sources told HT that the meeting was “very warm, positive, and forward-looking”. Nidhi also had a separate one-on-one, 15-minute meeting with PM Modi. On Friday, he had met external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, and also held a one-on-one meeting with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh.
Nidhi reminded the PM of his well-received speech to the Nepali Constituent Assembly back in 2014, and said, “Some of your phrases have become household phrases in Nepal...You also told us to take everyone along in the constitution-writing process. Our government is committed to it.”
This assumes significance, for India had advised Nepali political elites to take Madhesi aspirations on board in the constitution writing process last year. The advice was disregarded, resulting in the deterioration of bilateral relations. But the new government has taken symbolic steps to reach out to the Madhesis and is planning to register a constitutional amendment before Prachanda departs for Delhi.
Modi told Nidhi that India fully supports all such efforts.
Nidhi spoke of the need for development cooperation — and referred repeatedly to the Hulaki Road project, an east to west postal road in the Tarai, close to the Indian border, which has suffered many delays. Under a new modality, India is financing the project and offering consultants, while Nepal is responsible for land acquisition and the actual construction. Modi said that he is personally overseeing the implementation of projects, and there is a similar effort in the MEA to track projects.
Nidhi also asked for greater assistance on earthquake reconstruction, and extended an invitation to Modi to visit Janakpur, where Ram and Sita got married according to the Ramayana legend, and Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, in Nepal — sites which Modi had been unable to visit during his last trip during the Saarc summit.
Modi is said to have interjected and said, “Yes, there is Muktinath too,” another religious site in the upper reaches of Nepal. Whether Modi will be able to fit in a third visit to the northern neighbour is however uncertain.
After Prachanda’s visit, President Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to travel to Nepal in early October, and Nepal’s President, Bidya Bhandari, may come to India in December.