Nepal’s long quest for equidistant relations with her neighbours (Commentary)

Photo Courtesy: The Kathmandu Post

Photo Courtesy: The Kathmandu Post

Manoj Karki / Kathmandu: All eyes will be on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal when he begins his customary but significant visit to neighbouring India next week.

The visit will be the second by a Nepali Prime Minister in six months time. Prime Minister Dahal follows KP Oli who visited the southern neighbour in February earlier this year in the aftermath of the four-month-long blockade imposed to ‘help’ Nepal deal with the Madhesh-based parties’ concern over the new constitution of Federal Democratic Republican Nepal.

It was actually this very reason that CPN-MC Chairman Dahal pointed out for his decision to pull down the erstwhile government led by Oli. He reasoned that a new coalition was inevitable to address the agitating Madhesh-based parties and also to mend relations with India, which fractured over the same issue concerning the Madhesh.

And hence the visit to India from the Prime Minister’s perspective will be successful, justifying his decision to abandon UML, only if he is able to address the concerns of both India as well as that of the Madhesh-centric parties.

But then as Prime Minister Dahal was reported in the media as saying, on Wednesday, that he very well understands the current ‘mood’ of the Nepali people, he would definitely not go against the popular mandate to reach any controversial agreements with India. And as far as the ordinary Nepalis are concerned, they would certainly not want to face another border blockade as the festival season kicks off.

Prime Minister Dahal however has begun his second innings as the PM well, as far as his dealings with the two immediate neighbours are concerned. With no ambassadors in place in both Delhi and Beijing, the PM sent his two deputies as his special envoy to ward off any pressing concerns and to lay the ground for exchange of high-level visits, including of his own.

Of course, some experts have pointed out that the dealings with the neighbours would have been more neutral had DPM Bimalendra Nidhi been sent to China and DPM Krishna Bahadur Mahara to India. Nevertheless, only time will tell how fruitful have those two visits been.

In the meantime, there has already been a lot of buzz in the media about the postponement of the Chinese President’s visit to Nepal, despite a very ‘cautious’ denial by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the same. That will also be clear soon, as it is only a month away when the Chinese President Xi Jinping will be travelling to BRICS Summit to be held in Goa, India starting October 15. Earlier, it was reported that he would be coming to Nepal a day earlier on October 14.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister Dahal has meanwhile scored a point at least in expediting the appointment of the two very important ambassadorial positions as far as Nepal is concerned. And the decision he has made to re-appoint Dip Kumar Upadhyay as the Ambassador of India and appoint former Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal as the Ambassador to China is indeed a welcome step.

Following the “customary” public hearing by the Parliamentary Hearing Special Committee, both Upadhyay and Paudyal will be shifting base to Delhi and Beijing respectively. And by returning back to Delhi, Upadhyay will have a second opportunity to prove his critics wrong, who had questioned his role when Nepal’s relations with India nose-dived leading to a crippling economic blockade on the country.

And what more apt a candidate would have been than Leela Mani Paudyal to utilize our Embassy in Beijing in the long-term interest of the country, and to benefit from the immense and rapid economic strides taken by the People’s Republic of China under a communist government. His almost three years’ experience of working as the Consular General for the Tibet Autonomous Region of China would come handy as he takes the reins of the Nepali Embassy in Beijing.

Expectations from Paudyal will also be high given his clean image as a bureaucrat and his noble campaign of cleaning up the sacred Bagmati river as well as raising the issue of waiving off of the capital gain tax in course of the change of ownership of the Ncell telephone company.

And if Paudyal lives up to his reputation, with ample support from Singha Durbar, Nepal could in fact realize its long-held goal of sharing equidistant relations with both its immediate neighbours and grow up as a self-dependent yam under the caring shade of two giant boulders. RSS

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