KATHMANDU, April 2: Newly-appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has said that there is no alternative to excellent bilateral relations between Nepal and India, despite some hiccups in the recent past.
Arguing that Nepal and India share historically close and deep-rooted relations, Foreign Minister Gyawali said there are a number of areas in which both Nepal and India can cooperate for mutual benefits. “We have had some difficult relations with India during the previous stint of the current prime minister. I think this is an appropriate time to improve and further strengthen the relations between Nepal and India,” he said.
Relations between Nepal and India had reached a new low during the previous stint of CPN-UML Chairman K P Sharma Oli as prime minister following the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015. The recent Nepal visit by Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Kathmandu to congratulate Oli on his party's overwhelming victory in the parliamentary and provincial assembly polls and phone calls of Prime Minister Modi to Oli have been widely seen in Nepal as India's overtures to mend the relations with Nepal.
Foreign Minister Gyawali said that the fact that both Nepal and India currently have strong political leadership with popular mandates from people, there is a good opportunity to review and improve the bilateral relations. “The current [KP Oli-led] government has made economic development and prosperity as its main agenda. That provides an opportunity for further strengthening our relations,” he said.
Speaking at an interaction with diplomatic affairs correspondents in Kathmandu on Sunday, Foreign Minister Gyawali expressed confidence that the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of Nepal and India formed earlier will be able to recommend concrete measures to improve Nepal-India relations. The term of EPG comprising experts from both the countries is set to expire in June.
Minister Gyawali also said that Nepal and India do not have just donor and recipient-type relations. “Our relation is mutually beneficial. Although there is perception that Nepal is only a recipient country, this does not reflect the reality on the ground,” he insisted.
There is a rough estimate that some 800,000 Nepali nationals are working in India, while almost the same number of Indian nationals work in Nepal. Studies have shown that Nepal is one of the major countries from where India receives a large amount of remittance.
Foreign Minister Gyawali also argued that the upcoming India visit by Prime Minister Oli will open new vista in the bilateral relations between Nepal and India. “The visit is aimed at earning India's goodwill and trust and further strengthening our bilateral relations. There won't be any new agreements. We have many pending issues. The visit will focus on bringing them into implementation,” he said.
Prime Minister Oli in his first foreign visit after assuming his office is set to embark on a three-day state visit to New Delhi beginning April 6.
While highlighting the foreign policy priorities of the new government, the minister said that Nepal seeks to pursue close and mutually beneficial relations with both its immediate neighbors-- India and China. “We are not in a position to ignore any of the two neighbors.
It is good to know that India and China are gradually cooperating with each other in various areas despite their geopolitical and strategic rivalry. We must be able to reap benefits from both the countries,” he said. “We will not align with any of the two countries."
Minister Gyawali reiterated Nepal's commitment not to allow any activities inimical to the interests of any of Nepal's neighbors in its soil. He also said that Nepal always stands ready to address the legitimate interests and concerns of both India and China in its territory.