Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said his recent trip to India was quite successful in terms of nurturing bilateral ties between India and Nepal, though critics in Kathmandu were reluctant to call the visit fruitful.
Koirala has said the new Indian leadership, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, is keen to support Nepal´s economic development. Koirala´s first three-day official trip to the Southern neighbor was solely for attending the swearing-in ceremony of his newly-elected Indian counterpart Modi, the 15th prime minister of Indian Republic.
Coalition partners of the government said if the prime minister had consulted with the top leaders of the major parties on issues of key national interests.
“Since the new leadership took the reigns of the Indian government, it would have been great if the prime minister had consulted top leaders of the coalition partners and major parties represented in the CA,” UML´s International Relations Department member and foreign affairs expert Rajan Bhattarai told Republica, adding, “He should have included a CPN-UML senior minister as a member of his delegation. But he didn´t do so and accompanied his nephew and niece as well as Minister Bimalendra Nidhi from his own party.”
Though he said the visit was productive as the Nepalese leadership held meetings with the government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and urged for providing support in Nepal´s economic prosperity and development.
“It is a positive development that Nepal´s leadership held first ever meeting with the new Indian leadership that came to power following an overwhelming victory from the Lok Sabha elections. We are moving ahead to promulgate a new statue, maintain sustainable peace by ensuring political stability, exchange of views on mutual interest between the two leaderships is very important. The Indian leadership has concerns over Nepal´s peace process and constitution-drafting.” Bhattarai said.
He predicted that the Indian new leadership will also continue the same policy adopted by the previous government regarding Nepal´s democratic process, federalism, secularism and so on. “I don´t think that there will be any substantial changes in regard to Nepal affairs from the new Indian leadership. Though the nature of engagement and diplomatic dealings could be a bit different. There would be no paradigm shift in the bilateral ties,” Bhattarai added.
Meanwhile, the prime minister´s Foreign Relations Advisor Dr Dinesh Bhattarai said that Koirala had held enough discussions with UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal and Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bamdev Gautam with regards to the delegation to accompany the PM in his visit to India.
“It is absolutely wrong that the prime minister did not want to include UML´s representatives in the India visit. I am aware that Koirala held discussions with Foreign Minister Mahendra Pandey, Home Minister Gautam and Chairman Khanal many times,” Bhattarai said, “As the UML did not recommend anybody from the party, we just went ahead.” He further said that Minister Pandey gave more priority to his planned visit to Algeria to participate in the 17th Non-Alignment Ministerial
“I am not saying this conference was not important for us. As Minister Pandey decided to leave for Algeria accompanying foreign secretary Shanker Bairagi, prime minister´s delegation to India had to be confirmed,” Bhattarai informed.
While commenting on prime minister´s visit, Former Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey said that Nepal failed to maintain symbolism and substance in New Delhi during meetings with SAARC leaders and the Indian leadership. “Symbolism and substance are very important in diplomacy. Mainly, symbolism helps to shape favorable atmosphere in the diplomacy. Nepalese leadership failed in this front,” Pandey said. Nepalese leadership failed to grasp opportunity to understand the Indian political and governance transformation process. He claimed that prime minister did not look beyond his close aides. He said that the visit did not have any substance.
“Inviting SAARC leaders to Modi´s swearing-in ceremony had a great significance. But Nepalese leadership could not grasp it,” he claimed.
Prime Minister´s Advisor Bhattarai said that the visit was quite productive as the new Indian leadership has given top priority to its neighboring countries. “Prime Minister Modi invited SAARC leaders even before forming his cabinet. This shows how the new Indian leadership is giving priority to its neighbors. Discussions among the top SAARC leaders in New Delhi was especially focused on maintaining sustainable peace, economic prosperity and cooperation in many sectors-energy, tourism and trade. This is the most important aspect of this visit,” Bhattarai said.
He also said that the message was very clear from Indian Prime Minister Modi and they want to strengthen the regional body SAARC and expand cooperation among the neighboring countries. “It is important that Nepal prioritize areas of national interest and urge the Indian leadership for investment and cooperation,” PM´s Foreign Relations advisor Bhattarai said. “Foreign policy begins at home. First, let´s put our house in order. Then we can count on the goodwill and wishes from the neighboring countries, including India.”
Besides attending the oath taking ceremony, Prime Minister Koirala held meetings with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, the heads of state of SAARC countries and top guns playing key role in the Indian national politics. Modi´s swearing-in that took place just six months before the 18th SAARC Summit, which is taking place in Nepal, resembled a mini SAARC Summit.