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Cabinet offer for Nepal envoy

New Delhi, July 28: Nepal’s ambassador to India, Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, is being invited to join the government in Kathmandu.

Bhekh Bahadur, who has been Kathmandu’s representative in India for nearly six years, would leave India by the middle of August.

Although rumours are rife that Bhekh Bahadur is being offered the foreign minister's portfolio in the Suryabahadur Thapa government, he himself refused to comment on this. However, he did confirm that he had been invited by the Prime Minister to join his government when he was in Kathmandu last week.

There is also a possibility that he may join the government as its national security adviser in a revamped National Security Council.

An economist by training, Bhekh Bahadur has earlier served as the finance minister of Nepal and the governor of the Nepal Rashtra Bank. He has also had an illustrious career as a diplomat and has served two terms as Nepal’s ambassador to the US, besides doing two stints with the UN.

This is not the first time in recent years that Bhekh Bahadur has been invited to join the government. He had earlier been approached by Sher Bahadur Deuba to be his foreign minister. Bhekh Bahadur is understood to have refused the offer as it would have meant joining the breakaway faction of the Nepali Congress led by Deuba.

Subsequently, when after the dissolution of Parliament King Gyanendra decided to appoint a new government, Bhekh Bahadur’s was one of the names considered for the post of Prime Minister.

As Nepal’s ambassador in India, Bhekh Bahadur survived several changes in government at Kathmandu and enjoyed the confidence of the government of the day, irrespective of party affiliations.

“I am leaving at a time when there are no major problems between India and Nepal. We have learnt to rely more on negotiations and friendly persuasion over time. I have not only enjoyed but benefited from the experience of representing my country in India, as well as from the friendship and the warmth of the people here,” he said.

Bhekh Bahadur, during his stay in New Delhi, developed a personal rapport with national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and the two foreign ministers he had to deal with — Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha.

Looking back at his tenure in India, Bhekh Bahadur said: “I have been received well and people gave me access and listened to me patiently even during difficult days.”

Bhekh Bahadur’s tenure was marked by many crises in the relationship between the two neighbours. Within a year of his arrival, there was the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane in December 1998, followed by the riots in Kathmandu over an alleged statement by Hrithik Roshan in the summer of 1999.

Then the Narayanhiti Palace massacre took place in June 2001, which all but decimated the Nepalese Royal family and Nepal has been plunged into political turmoil since then.

Bhekh Bahadur can look back at his handling the fallout of these crises with some satisfaction. “Problems were there and problems will be there in any relationship, but what is important is that we are dealing with each other in a very civilised manner. We have learnt to understand each other’s perceptions, including security concerns, better,” he said.

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