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Misunderstandings with India cleared, says Nepal PM Oli

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By Deepak Goel

New Delhi: Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, on returning home, has chosen to describe his six-day state visit to India as “very successful”, contending that it helped to clear misunderstandings between the two neighbors and restore harmonious relations.

The assertion comes after Kathmandu during the past six months had accused New Delhi of intervening in its sovereign constitution-drafting process; of imposing a blockade which caused a humanitarian crisis in the landlocked Himalayan nation; and of stoking and supporting the Madhesi agitation in the southern Terai plains.

New Delhi, in turn, accused Kathmandu of not addressing the internal political conflict in the Nepali Terai, which has cross-border security implications. India also raised, on international platforms, the issue of Nepal’s human rights violations.

It also accused Nepal of stoking ‘anti-India’ sentiment and has been irritated, though not particularly worried, about Nepal’s attempt to use the ‘China card’.

However, the two neighbors, for now, appear to have chosen to forget the mutual recriminations and get down to the task of much desired economic progress.

During Oli’s state visit, the two sides signed nine agreements, ranging from infrastructure to rail and road transit. They agreed on post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal, strengthening of road infrastructure in the Terai area of the Himalayan nation, transit routes, rail transport, and the 400 KV Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line.

Oli’s visit also took him to Bhuj, in Gujarat, which has risen like the Phoenix after the destruction wreaked by the January 26, 2001, earthquake. Oli described the Bhuj visit as significant, as he thought the reconstruction activities there after the 2001 temblor could be tremendously useful for Nepal’s own reconstruction.

Oli, on return to Kathmandu at the end of his February 19-24 visit, said his main mission was to “clear the misunderstanding” with India and take ties between the two neighbors to the same level as in 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nepal.

After the bilateral talks with Modi in New Delhi, Oli said: “The misunderstanding that persisted in the last few months is no longer there. I believe our relationship will greatly benefit from our discussions. It is high time to look at India-Nepal relations with a forward-looking approach in the interest of the two countries and their people.”

However, while Oli described Nepal’s Constitution — promulgated on September 20 last year — as “historic”, Modi called it a “major achievement” and stressed that its success depends on “consensus and dialogue”.

With the Nepal PM listening, he said: “The announcement of the new constitution in Nepal came after decades of struggle there… I appreciate the contribution of the political leadership and the people of Nepal for it… But its success depends on consensus and dialogue.”

“I am confident on the basis of these principles and through political dialogue and by taking all sections together, you (Oli) will be able to resolve all issues relating to the constitution satisfactorily and take Nepal forward towards the path of development and stability.”

Modi’s assertion amply demonstrated that India did not fully endorse the new constitution as it needed a wider ownership and inclusion.

The conversation took place only a month after Nepal’s parliament passed two constitutional amendments which avowedly sought to address the grievances of the Madhesis and other minorities of the Nepali Terai.

While the two leaders described the document differently — showing the distance in the understanding of issues, Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said the Nepali PM has given assurances on issues pertaining to constituency delimitation and citizenship, and that India was confident these would be followed through.

A significant feature of Oli’s state visit was the absence of a joint communique at the end of the visit. The development marked a departure as the tradition of issuing joint communiques at the end of the visits of Nepali heads of state or government to India has usually been followed — at least since 1990.

Officials privy to the visit said preparations were afoot in New Delhi earlier on the joint communique and senior officials from both the sides were engaged in finalizing its wording. But at the last moment, no joint statement was issued after India refused to say categorically that it welcomed Nepal’s new constitution.

On the other hand, Nepal wanted to get the phrase ‘India welcomes the new constitution in Nepal’ incorporated in the joint communique, a Nepali official said in Kathmandu.

Oli is learnt to have assured that the pending issues regarding the demands of the Medhesis would be addressed in a time-bound manner. Modi told Oli that India has always wanted peace, stability and prosperity of Nepal and that it would extend all possible help to ensure its all-round development.

What emerges from the Oli visit is that Nepal is more interested in appeasing India rather than reaching out to its own people in the Terai. This may have partially satisfied India’s desire to reassert its centrality in Nepal but it does not solve the problem of Madhesi and Tharu alienation. (IANS)

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9 Climbers Pulled From Snow After A Sudden Storm On Mount Gurja, Nepal

Mountaineering experts are questioning how the experienced team was so badly hit at their base camp at 3,500 meters.

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Mount Gurja
Tourists take pictures at Sarangkot in Pokhara, with the view of the Mount Annapurna range in the background, some 200 km (124 miles) west of Kathmandu, Nov. 30, 2008. Annapurna, at 8,091 meters high, is the 10th highest mountain in the world.. VOA

A rescue team Sunday began retrieving the bodies of nine climbers killed in a violent storm on Nepal’s Mount Gurja, a freak accident that has left the mountaineering community reeling.

A helicopter dropped four mountain guides at the camp where the South Korean climbing expedition was staying when powerful winds and snow swept through, killing the entire team and scattering their bodies as far as 500 meters (yards) away.

“All nine bodies have been found and the team are in the process of bringing them down,” said Siddartha Gurung, a chopper pilot who is coordinating the retrieval mission.

Mount Gurja
A helicopter dropped four mountain guides at the camp.

A second helicopter along with a team of rescue specialists and villagers were also involved in the mission, which has been hampered by strong winds as well as the camp’s remoteness in the Dhaulagiri mountain range of Nepal’s Annapurna region.

The bodies of the climbers, five South Koreans and four Nepalis, will be flown to Pokhara, a tourist hub that serves as a gateway to the Annapurna region, and then to Kathmandu, said Yogesh Sapkota of Simrik Air, a helicopter company involved in the effort.

‘Like a bomb went off’

The expedition’s camp was destroyed by the powerful storm, which hit the area late Thursday or Friday, flattening all the tents and leaving a tangled mess of tarpaulin and broken polls.

“Base camp looks like a bomb went off,” said Dan Richards of Global Rescue, a U.S.-based emergency assistance group that will be helping with the retrieval effort.

Mount Gurja
Wangchu Sherpa of Trekking Camp Nepal, organised the expedition

The expedition was led by experienced South Korean climber Kim Chang-ho, who has climbed the world’s 14 highest mountains without using supplemental oxygen.

Experts puzzled

Mountaineering experts are questioning how the experienced team was so badly hit at their base camp at 3,500 meters.

Also Read: Nepal Saves Its Tiger Population, Doubles It

“At this point we don’t understand how this happened. You don’t usually get those sorts of extreme winds at that altitude and base camps are normally chosen because they are safe places,” Richards said.

The team had been on 7,193-meter (23,599-foot) Mount Gurja since early October, hoping to scale the rarely climbed mountain via a new route. (VOA)