Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli said today the “historical” and “renewed” friendship between India and Nepal is oriented towards the future and the bilateral ties have evolved according to the “needs of times”. Oli said he is visiting India in the “changed context” to contribute to the friendship between “our two countries and people”.
“With our neighbours, particularly India, we expect first is friendship. Time is changing and we have developed our friendship, according to the needs of times, and according to the desires of our people with a purpose to eliminate poverty, improve the life standard of our people,” he said.
“Our friendship is historical, renewed and developed and very fruitful. It is oriented towards future, not looking back, but looking forward,” he told reporters after receving the Guard of Honour at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
This is Oli’s first visit to India after taking charge as Nepal’s prime minister for the second time in February this year. He visited India in February 2016 during his first term.
In a press statement after holding delegation talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Oli said his government wants to build a strong edifice of “trust-based” relationship with India.
Many observers see Oli as favouring a closer relationship between Nepal and China. However, the issue of China-Nepal ties was not discussed during the delegation level talks.
Asked about Nepal joining China’s ambitious One Border One Road (OBOR) initiative and India’s concerns regarding the project, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters at a briefing that “there was no discussion on China”.
The OBOR is a massive infrastructure project that aims to link Asia and European markets through a maze of rail, road and shipping networks. The controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a part of the OBOR initiative.
India has opposed the CPEC as it runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Oli’s first tenure as prime minister in 2015-16 saw protests by Indian-origin Madeshi people in the southern Terai (plains) region over the new Constitution. The Madhesis say the new Constitution was discriminatory to their interests.
They blocked major trading points between India and Nepal, preventing goods from reaching the landlocked country. The months-long blockade had led to souring of bilateral ties.
But Foreign Secretary Gokhale said the circumstances in 2016 and tow were different, saying the government of Nepal has been elected on the basis of the Constitution that was passed.
“As far as our relationship is concerned, we have a close and unique relationship with Nepal, but the efforts of both the leaders at today’s meeting was to have a forward looking approach and see how we can deepen and strengthen this relationship,” he said.
In his statement, Oli lauded India’s initiative to have guidelines and regulations for cross-border electricity trade.
“It is definitely a step ahead. However, I conveyed Nepal’s desire to see an early realisation of the open market provision of the bilateral power trade agreement, which was concluded between us in 2014, thanks largely to Modi ji’s positive direction,” Oli said.
Later responding to a question on this, Sudhakar Dalela, joint secretary (north) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said India has build three transmission lines for Nepal in two years, which help supply 350-400 MW of electricity to Nepal.
Dalela said nearly 18 months ago India issued a set of guidelines to bring transparency in the regulatory mechanism for cross-border trade in power. “We have received some comments from neighgbouring countries in the last few months and we intend to look at these comments and see how we take those into account while trying to promote a better power trading market in South Asia,” he said.
On demonetisation, he said the issue did not come for discussion between the two leaders. Nepal has a substantial amount of demonetised high-value Indian currency.