'Do not compromise on national interests in the name of equidistant relations'

Published On: April 30, 2018 12:18 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 30: As Nepal's equidistant relations with its immediate neighbors have come under scrutiny especially after the new government came into place, top diplomats and foreign policy experts have advised the government not to make any compromise on the country's national interests in the name of equidistant relations with India and China.

Addressing a talk program organized by Madan Bhandari Foundation in the capital on Sunday, the experts including former foreign ministers argued that Nepal should pursue bold and independent foreign policy to enhance its national interests abroad, and fully assert its sovereign rights. They also maintained that Nepal cannot promote its interests if its foreign policy is guided just to please the neighbors at the expense of its own interests. 

Former foreign minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey argued that Nepal cannot promote its national interests if its foreign policies with India and China are guided by a sense of fear and threat. "We often say balanced relations with both neighbors. We cannot achieve what we want if we only think about pleasing them. We should learn not to make any compromise on issues related to our sovereignty," he said.

Addressing the talk program organized on the theme of Nepal-India Relations: Evolved Dynamics, the former foreign minister said our politicians and bureaucrats are largely to be blamed for the unwarranted foreign interference in Nepal. 

"You do not need to submit petition to invite foreign interference. This largely depends on whether we are able to demonstrate diplomatic behavior or not," he further said while venting his ire against the political leaders who do not abide by the diplomatic code of conduct introduced while he was in office as foreign minister. 

Arguing that Nepal-India relations have not remained steady, former foreign and finance minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said the relation between the two countries is largely dependent on contemporary political context, moral authority of the political leaderships and political legitimacy of the ruling leaders. "There is a kind of inherent bias against Nepal in Indian media. This somehow provides reflection of the South Block.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a realization on part of the Indian side that this is wrong," he said while referring to Indian economic embargo of 2015. 

Mahat argued that the relations between India and Nepal should embrace new realities in both the countries. "Government should stand tough in promoting national interests and has to clearly articulate its position on issues of mutual interests. There is no need for Nepal to make compromise on issues concerning national interests in its dealings with any of the neighbors," he said while complaining that Prime Minister K P Oli had failed to raise the issues of Nepal's immediate concerns.

Referring to the agreement reached between Nepal and India to work on expanding Indian railway network to Kathmandu via Raxaul, Dr Mahat argued that black topping of mid-hill highway was more important than bringing rail to Nepal. He claimed that no proper study and homework on such cross-country railway projects has been done yet. 

Senior journalist Kanak Mani Dixit and foreign policy expert Tika Dhakal had presented a joint paper that dealt with media content analysis of Indian mainstream media in relations to India visit of Prime Minister K P Oli. Prof Khadga KC and journalist Sujit Mainali had made a separate presentation on the comparative study of Nepal-India Joint Comminiques since 1990.

Dixit and Dhakal concluded that there had been a definitive shift in the Indian national English print media's coverage of Oli's latest visit compared to the coverage related to his last visit in February, 2016 and also in relation to long-standing criticism of Nepali politics at least since the cconstitution-writingprocess. 

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