No fundamental shift in foreign policy, says Minister MahatSarin Ghimire

- SARIN GHIMIRE, Kathmandu

Sep 4, 2016-

Newly sworn-in Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat has said that Nepal’s foreign policy objectives will not see a “fundamental shift” during the tenure of the Maoist Centre-Nepali Congress coalition but that the new government will have a “different approach” to handling relations with the neighbouring countries.

“All the governments claim that their goal is to safeguard national interests. But whether we achieve our goals is determined by the approach we take to our diplomatic initiatives,” Mahat said in an interview. 

“The previous government, though it claimed that it wanted to improve ties with India, had a very rigid and stubborn approach. We plan to take a different approach, one that balances the geopolitical context of having Nepal in between two of the world’s largest economies.”

Bilateral relations between Nepal and India deteriorated after the promulgation of the new constitution in September last year. The Tarai region was unsettled after a significant population had reservations about the new statute. India then imposed an undeclared blockade on Nepal, which many said was because of “misunderstandings over the constitution”. The unofficial blockade, that lasted about five months, had a serious economic impact, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

Mahat said that relations with the two neighbours had already shown signs of improvement, with presidents of both India and China likely to visit Nepal this year. “We have already said that we will respect all the agreements made with China in principle, even though they are in a very early phase,” he said. “With India, we do not intend to go there with a long list of demands. Instead, we will look to implement our past agreements, for example the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project and the Hulaki Rajmarga project.”

Pancheshwar includes hydropower, irrigation and flood control on the Mahakali river in the Far West and the Hulaki Road is a highway stretching across the plains south of the East-West Highway.

The new government had sent special envoys--Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi to India and DPM and Minister for Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara to China--in a bid to improve relations with the two neighbours. 

“We cannot expect overnight changes. But the sequence of events shows that we 

are in the right direction,” Mahat said.

Published: 04-09-2016 09:02

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