BIMSTEC cannot replace SAARC, says PM Oli (with video)
June 1, 2019 11:03 AM NPT
Photo: Republica Video Courtesy: India Today
NEW DELHI, June 1: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has called for "revival" of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation which has remained dysfunctional since 2016 after India and three other SAARC fellow member states boycotted the SAARC Summit that was scheduled to be held in Pakistan in 2016.
During his interview with India Today in New Delhi on Friday, Oli who is also the current chair of SAARC, said, "I don't want to talk about regional and other issues. But, as the chair, Nepal wants to revive SAARC and make it effective again. Developing relations in the region is better than anything else."
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a major diplomatic move, invited BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) nations, Mauritius and Kyrgyzstan for his swearing-in ceremony to emphasize the importance of neighborhood in his government's foreign policy framework.
"PM Modi invited BIMSTEC leaders and something from outside for this swearing-in program. It indicates that India wants to work together with neighbors. PM Modi wants to work with the leaders of the region. It indicates that PM Modi feels that we are facing common problems and share a common future. We have to work together to face the challenges of the time and meet our goals", Oli told during the interview.
India has projected the BIMSTEC as the alternative to SAARC even though many of the SAARC countries believe that both are independent regional platforms and one cannot be replaced by the other.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Sri Lankan President Sirisena concurred with Nepal's PM when he said, "Both BIMSTEC and SAARC are significant organizations. It's very important that countries cooperate in terms. Mutual friendship and cooperation."
India and Nepal also had a bilateral meeting on Friday where both sides reviewed bilateral ties. Prime Minister Oli said that detailed discussion would take place when PM Modi visits Nepal.
Earlier, Nepal had extended an invitation to President Kovind to visit Nepal. A similar, invitation was extended by Prime Minister Modi during the bilateral meeting.
India and Nepal went through a difficult phase during the blockade period but both nations have resolved matters and normalized ties.
There continue to remain certain issues that the two sides would have to resolve like the demonetized Indian currency that is still deposited in Nepalese banks and India is yet to take them back in exchange for a new currency.
Prime Minister Oli expressed confidence in the Modi administration and said that it would be resolved soon. "Those issues are not that huge and serious that it cannot be resolved. These problems can be resolved. We will not discuss it today but will take it up later", he said.
India's new External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar had a difficult relationship with Nepal since he was Foreign Secretary in 2015 when the Modi administration rushed him to Kathmandu two days ahead of the Constitution promulgation. As a special envoy of Indian PM Modi, Jaishankar urged Nepali leaders to halt the Constitution promulgation unless the concerns raised by the agitating Madhes-based fringe parties were not met. However, the Nepali leaders snubbed the Indian establishment by promulgating the Constitution in the stipulated date. Three days after Jaishankar's visit to Kathmandu, India imposed an economic embargo against Nepal that lasted for five months.
On his appointment as a minister in Modi's cabinet, Prime Minister Oli said, "Friendship of neighboring countries does not depend on an individual but with the government, with PM Modi and with the people of India. The composition of the government is the business of India entirely. Whoever takes whatever portfolio, our friendly ties are not dependent on such appointments."