Kathmandu: Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who is all set to embark on an official visit to India, on Tuesday said he will aim to clear all “misunderstanding” that crept up in the recent past between Nepal and India and deepen the bilateral ties based on shared prosperity.
Providing details to parliament of his upcoming six-day visit, Oli said relations with India will be maintained on the basis of mutual benefit, according to the spirit of the 21st century.
Leading a 60-member delegation that would include ministers, government officials, parliamentarians, leaders from various political parties, business leaders and the media, Oli will embark on the visit on February 19.
In New Delhi, Oli will meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other government officials on Saturday and Sunday. He will later visit Mumbai, where he will address the business community.
No agreement will be signed in India against Nepal’s national interest, Oli assured parliament.
“My visit is focused on repairing ties not further disturbing it. We have very deep relations with India but we saw some minor problems,” he said.
Oli said rather than getting entangled in the issues, “we should move ahead in a new direction”.
“Nepal seeks peace, unity, respect for each other and shared prosperity with India, and I will focus on inviting Indian investment in Nepal,” he said.
Nepal-India relations were plunged to a new low late last year when an anti-Constitution Madhesi agitation in Nepal’s southern Terai region led to blockading of the border points — for which Kathmandu held New Delhi responsible — and resulted in scarcity of essentials including food, fuel and medicines.
The Madhesi protestors were demanding, among other things, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in Nepal as proposed in the new Constitution — promulgated on September 20 last year — and representation in Parliament on the basis of population.
Significantly, the Nepal Terai — comprising the Madhes and the Tharuhat regions — has almost 51 percent of the country’s population and yet gets only one-third of seats in Parliament.
The Madhesis were also seeking proportional representation in government jobs and restoration of rights granted to them in the interim constitution of 2007 which the new charter had snatched away.
After an almost six-month-long agitation, during which more than 50 lives were lost, The Madhesi protestors without their stir earlier this month paving the way for the India visit of Prime Minister Oli who had vowed that he would not visit New Delhi as long as the Madhesi protest continued.
While the country’s parliament has sought to placate the disgruntled Madhesis by amending a couple of contentious provisions in the four-month-old constitution, outstanding issues yet remain unaddressed.
On the resolution of the domestic political issues, Oli said the Constitution was recently amended and a high-level political committee with a three-month mandate will be set up before his India visit to study the remaining contentious issues, including the re-drawing of provincial boundaries.
Stating that Nepal and India were “two friendly countries that have an open border”, and are “related to each other culturally, historically, socially, economically” and in many other ways, Oli expressed the hope that his visit will help clear the differences that emerged between the two countries recently.
“If there are any things to be corrected in our relationship, then that would be done in the days to come based on the principle of equality as well as mutual respect and benefit,” he said.
He pointed to the need for taking Nepal down the path of economic prosperity and development, and said he will explore the ways for that and try to bring in foreign investment to the Himalayan nation during his India visit.
Oli said that though there were some bitter incidents in the past, “we (Nepal and India) now have to focus on mutual benefit and cooperation, and move ahead on the path of prosperity together”.
“This visit is happening not against Nepal’s national interest, or to destabilise the friendly relationship between Nepal and India, but to strengthen the friendship. It’s not for going back but to move forward, not for making accusations but for building understanding.”