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‘Madhesis Key to Indo-Nepal Ties’

Until recently Nepal’s envoy Deep Kumar Upadhyay talks about downturn in relations between two countries

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Jun 6 2016 3:49PM | Updated Date: Jun 17 2016 3:35PM

‘Madhesis Key to Indo-Nepal Ties’photo: Hrishikesh bhatt

Until recently Nepal’s ambassador to New Delhi Deep Kumar Upadhyay talks to Shankar Kumar about the sudden downturn in the relations between two countries. Excerpts:

By recalling you from your ambassadorial stint in New Delhi and cancelling President Bidya Bhandari’s India visit, has not the Nepal government-led by K P Sharma Oli damaged Indo-Nepal relations beyond repair?
See, I served my country dutifully as an envoy. Though I belong to the Nepali Congress, but when I was assigned the task of representing my country in India, I restricted to my job. I did nothing that could go against the interest of Nepal. Even then if the government felt I should be relieved off my job, I am happy. I have no regrets. My friends are happy. As regarding India-Nepal relations, I would like to say that these are minor incidents and they would not harm the tie that the two countries share between them. We have between us a roti-beti ka rishta and open border. Thousands of Nepalese get pensions from India every month and thousands of others are serving in Indian Army. Around 50 lakh Nepalese citizens are working in different corners of India. And then more Nepalese origin people reside in India than Nepal. Except Nepal and India, where do we find such type of engagement in the world? So Nepal-India relations are rock solid and they can’t be harmed by one or two incidents here and there.
Nepali communists are said to be sharing a close ideological affinity with China. As Prime Minister Oli belongs to Communist Party of Nepal- Unified Marxist-Leninist, do you think that his considered proximity with China is the reason behind current strain in India-Nepal ties?  
It is true that Oli is a communist. But it does not mean he is a pro-China man and an anti-India personality. Whatever misunderstanding is there between the two countries, it is due to the new Constitution of Nepal. Madhesis’ demands have to be accommodated. Then I would like to say that to attain economic benefits, peace and stability are must and for this to happen, the Nepal government should address its people’s problems first. With this, I would also like to convey that the Nepal government needs to maintain positive attitude towards India, because you can’t change the terrain and geography. It is true that China has a surplus money and technology than India, still we should not forget that India looms large on every sphere of Nepal.  
Can you elaborate your stand that Nepal needs to have a positive attitude towards India?
My stand is simple that Nepal is a land locked nation which is 70 percent dependent on India for its trade and 100 percent for its fuel. Also, most of things are sourced from India. As such it should try to ease tension with India, instead of aggravating it.
India was the first country to rush aid to Nepal when a devastating earthquake hit it last year. Under ‘Operation Maitri’ it provided $70 million worth of assistance for relief and rescue operation after the quake struck it. Every year, New Delhi provides $50 to $70 million assistance to Nepal. Besides, it has extended $1.65 billion worth of Line of Credit for its several developmental projects. Yet, India faces trust deficit from Nepal. Why is it so?
There is no denying the fact that India is Nepal’s one of major donors. But it should help us get over our problems which are multifarious. Resolution of Madhesis demands over the Constitution is one of major challenges confronting us and we need to address them without further delay. 
Nepal often plays China card against India. By doing so, is not Kathmandu further damaging its ties with New Delhi?
Nepal can’t play China card against India. It has never happened. You should be confident about yourself. Even in a family some members say look I am not happy with this and that. It is exactly what sometimes happens in Nepal. No one plays China card there. It is just a rumour spread by some vested interest. I would rather say that no country’s ties should be at the cost of other. If there is some bitterness between Nepal and India then both should try to resolve it. The visit of President Bidya Bhandari to India has not been cancelled, rather suspended. She will visit India in the near future.
What is your future plan after returning from New Delhi?
I have not yet thought over it. But yes, I will do something. Wait.