Hint of thaw in Nepal ties

Nepal's deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa today described relations with India as "excellent" and suggested that the neighbours had left behind the acrimony that just a month back saw Kathmandu call back its ambassador and accuse New Delhi of trying to stage a coup.

By Our Special Correspondent
  • Published 11.06.16
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New Delhi, June 10: Nepal's deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa today described relations with India as "excellent" and suggested that the neighbours had left behind the acrimony that just a month back saw Kathmandu call back its ambassador and accuse New Delhi of trying to stage a coup.

Thapa, on his fifth visit to India in the last eight months, is the senior-most Nepalese leader to visit New Delhi since the withdrawal of ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyay in May amid allegations in Kathmandu that he was conniving with India.

The deputy Prime Minister, who is also foreign minister, met foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in the evening and will tomorrow serve as chief guest at the commencement ceremony for students of the South Asian University.

"I am very happy to inform you that at present, Nepal-India relations are excellent," Thapa told journalists at a media briefing here. "There were some misunderstandings but we have been able to resolve them."

Thapa's visit represents the latest chapter in a see-saw diplomatic journey that India-Nepal relations have traversed since last September, when the Himalayan nation promulgated a new constitution that New Delhi insisted was biased against the Madhesi minority.

The Nepalese leader today referred to his country's expectation then that India would be the "first to welcome the new constitution". India did not, and Nepal blamed a subsequent blockade along their land border on New Delhi, though the bigger neighbour rejected the charge.

Then, India brokered a temporary compromise between Kathmandu and Madhesi protesters. The Nepal government under Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli agreed to amend some of the controversial provisions in the constitution, and the protesters called off their blockade - which had starved land-locked Nepal of crucial supplies of medicines, food and fuel.

When Oli visited India in March, he insisted he wanted to clear all "misunderstandings".

But a month later, after he returned from a visit to China where Nepal inked a transit pact that allows it to bypass India, Oli again accused New Delhi - this time of trying to destabilise his government.

On Friday, Thapa claimed Oli had been misunderstood, and Upadhyay was recalled only because the government felt its views could be articulated better by a new envoy. Upadhyay, a veteran leader of the Nepali Congress, had been appointed ambassador in 2014 when that party was in power in Nepal. It is now the principal Opposition.

"Prime Minister Oli's words were misunderstood," Thapa said. "And my ministry only sent a single line to Ambassador Upadhyay - to return - without levelling any allegations."