KATHMANDU, Sept 3: Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi has said that the letter sent by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi cannot be made public as demanded by the main opposition CPN-UML.
Speaking at a meeting of Parliament's International Relations and Labor Committee on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Nidhi argued that the government cannot make the letter public as that would set a bad precedent.
“As this issue has evoked wide concern, I asked foreign ministry officials if the letter can be made public, and they suggested to me not to do so as such a move would establish a wrong practice and may invite diplomatic complications,” Nidhi said at the meeting, responding to queries from lawmakers.
He said Parliament has the right to obtain the letter from the government and make it public but doing so would not send a positive message in foreign countries and it is also against diplomatic practice.
“The government has already informed the opposition and the general public about the contents of the prime minister's letter but the letter itself cannot be made public," he said adding, "So, the opposition should just trust what the government has disclosed regarding the contents.”
During his recent visit to India, Deputy Prime Minister Nidhi had handed over the letter sent by Prime Minister Dahal to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. The letter caused controversy after it was reported that it included the prime minister's commitment to the Indian side regarding changes to the new Constitution. In his letter, Dahal also reportedly admitted past mistakes vis a vis India and said he was eager to correct those.
Following the controversy, the main opposition CPN-UML has been demanding that the government make the latter public, saying it was absolutely objectionable for the prime minister to be making promises about constitutional amendments to a foreign country.
Also speaking at the meeting, CPN-UML Vice-chairman Bhim Rawal urged the committee to direct the government to make the prime minister's letter to Modi public.
“If the letter is not made public, we will have to assume that the new government discussed Nepal's internal affairs with officials of a foreign country and is trying to invite external interference,” he added.
He further said the government should have no problem making the letter public if there is no mention in it of any plans regarding constitutional amendment.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Nidhi insisted that it was just a formal letter and did not contain anything regarding constitutional amendment.
“I have already told the Indian side that Nepal's constitutional amendments are entirely Nepal's internal affair," he said and asked the opposition to stop making an issue out of it.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat, who were present at the meeting, also said that the letter does not mention constitutional amendments. Mahara, who visited China earlier as a special envoy of the prime minister, informed the committee about his discussions with Chinese officials during his visit.
After lawmakers continued asking the committee to seek the letter from the government, Prabhu Sah, who chairs the committee, said it would decide whether to ask the government for the letter only after holding discussions with diplomats and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.