Nepal statute inclusive; misunderstanding with India cleared: Oli


New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, here on a fence-mending mission, asserted on Monday that the new Constitution of the Himalayan nation was a dynamic document providing inclusivity to all sections of the Nepali society.

Assuring once again the disgruntled sections in Nepal — particularly the Madhesi parties of Nepal’s southern Terai region — about the government having an open mind towards their grievances, if any, Oli said: “We are ready to listen and ready to address if there are any genuine problems.”

Oli, who arrived here on Friday on a six-day visit — the first state visit by a prime minister from the Himalayan nation since 2011, declared that he has succeeded in clearing up “all misunderstandings” with New Delhi about the alleged discriminatory character of the new statute.

“The main mission of my visit was to clear misunderstandings that surfaced in the past few months and to take back our relations to the same level of enthusiasm when (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modiji visited Nepal in August 2014,” said Oli.

The visiting Nepali premier was delivering the 21st Sapru House Lecture at the Indian Council of World Affairs here. Present on the occasion, among others, were Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa.

Oli, who is making his first foreign visit after the Himalayan nation adopted a new Constitution in September last year, said India and Nepal shared a lot in common and their relations were beyond formalities.

Nepal, he said, was keen to share in the economic progress achieved by India and wanted to lend impetus to the development of its abundant water resources through India’s participation.

“We are working on hydro projects with combined capacity of 7,000 MW and their quick and successful completion can be a gateway to Nepal’s economic prosperity,” Oli said, adding that a just-inaugurated power line would initially provide 80 MW electricity to energy-starved Nepal but within the next two years it would provide up to 600 MW of power.

The two countries inaugurated a power transmission line between Muzaffarpur in Bihar and Dhalkebar in Nepal during Oli’s visit here.

Oli also thanked India for all the support it provided to Nepal over the years for developmental work in various fields, and specially for the spontaneous support after the April 2015 earthquake that claimed 8,800 lives and destroyed property worth crores of rupees.

“The support and solidarity shown by our friends from India turns the heads of Nepalese people,” he said, adding that “we equally appreciate the support of India in our reconstruction drive”.

Referring to the contentious issue of the new Constitution and its alleged discriminatory character vis-a-vis the Madhesis and the indigenous groups of the Nepal Terai, Oli said “some of the issues have already been addressed and some others are still being addressed”.

On January 23, the Nepal parliament approved two amendments to the then four-month-old Constitution in an effort to address the agitating Madhesis’ demands for proportionate representation and allocation of seats in parliament on the basis of population.

The Madhesi agitation, that continued for almost six months, claimed more than 55 lives in violent protests which erupted following the adoption of the new Constitution on September 20 last year.

Crucial entry points from India to Nepal were blocked by the agitators leading to shortage of essential supplies and medicines in the land-locked Himalayan nation.

Nepal blamed the Indian establishment for instigating the trouble, a charge New Delhi firmly and constantly denied.

Oli said the constitutional amendments were brought within a short span of time and it proved that his government was very flexible and wanted to address genuine demands.

“It proves that the Constitution is dynamic, can be changed, amended according to demands,” he said.

Referring to India nudging Nepal to address concerns of sections of its people concerning the Constitution, Oli said: “The government of Nepal and people of Nepal are ready to address the genuine concerns and we understand the sensitivities of our neighbours. We are always addressing these.”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is also ICWA vice president, described India-Nepal relations as historic and characterised by emotional bonds rather than geographical proximity.

Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Kamal Thapa, who also addressed the gathering, said the main purpose of Prime Minister Oli’s visit was to clear the air of mistrust and misunderstanding that had overshadowed bilateral ties in the past few months.

“The air of mistrust and misunderstanding has been fully cleared… the relations have come back to normal,” he said, adding that it was a new phase in India-Nepal relations.