We've attached great importance to Chinese President Xi's visit to Nepal: Dr. Adhikari

It is said that Nepal’s foreign policy lacks coherence. It often witnesses shifts with the change of government. This is largely due to the failure of the parties in charting out a common foreign policy that should guide the country no matter which party is at the helm of the government. As the foreign policy varies according to the parties' ideology and positions, it is the country that suffers the most when it comes to dealing with the neighbours and foreign affairs matters. 

Against this backdrop, Yogesh Pokharel of The Rising Nepal talked to Dr Rishi Raj Adhikari, former ambassador and Foreign Affairs advisor to the Prime Minister, on a wide gamut of issues, including the nation's foreign policy direction, media reports of the Indian government’s efforts to have the Nepal Army Peace Keeping Missions under its command and proposed amendment bill, among others. Excerpts:

Every time there is a change of government, the country’s foreign policy tends to see a shift. Has this also been the case with the formation of the present government?

The basic tenets of our foreign policy have remained the same even after the change of government. Our independent foreign policies - equal-near to our two neighbours, one-China policy and the Panchsheel (principle of co-existence) do not change and have not changed. Yes, sometimes the folly of an individual, knowingly or unknowingly, acting odd, like meeting representatives of a unrecognised state or trying to over-react to certain issues of our neighbour/s should not be taken as a change in our foreign policy.

Controversy often tends to surround Nepal's relations, especially with the two neighbouring countries. Relations with these two neighbours mostly determine the success or failure of Nepal's foreign policy. What is the foreign policy of the incumbent government with regard to India and China?

It is but natural that much of our foreign policy revolves around our two friendly neighbours. Besides the proximity, it is more so due to their constant rivalry on the political, economic and military spheres. It is very sensitive for a relatively small and weak country like ours to tread a fine line without impacting their national interests. We should be happy that we have designed a set of do’s and don’ts in our dealings with our neighbours. As mentioned earlier, it is the Panchsheel doctrine that we follow in conducting our foreign policy on an equal footing with our powerful neighbours. We deal with both of them on the basis of sovereignty and independence, taking care of their security and economic interests to the fullest. We cannot and do not want to build relations with one at the cost of the other. 

Both the neighbours have made remarkable progress on the socio-economic front. However, we tend to lean on them to garner their support. What is your take on this?

Yes, we are happy that they have progressed tremendously in the economy and military areas. On the other hand, throughout this period, we have been embroiled in internal wrangling. We have got entangled in the political problem for the past 60-70 years, thus getting trapped into a never-ending transition game. The whole polity has been engaged in political settlements. Our people’s prosperity agenda has been on the back burner. Amidst the sluggish economic development, it is but natural that we seek support from our better-doing friendly countries. We believe that we will soon have national consensus on the major political issues, including implementation of the constitution and provincial restructuring.

The visit of the Chinese President has become a matter of prestige for Nepal. Is there any possibility of his visit to Nepal soon?

China is our very important friendly neighbor, and . We are waiting to see it happen. Both the countries time and again have been expressing positive remarks about his visit and are preparing for it. We think the visit of the head of state of our friendly and important neighbour should be taken as a very natural process. We are confident that the President will visit his longtime friend Nepal sometime soon at his convenience.

The constitution amendment bill, registered by the government in the Legislature-Parliament, has polarised the national politics sharply. How do you see the fate of the bill?

Nepal is a democratic country. We take pride in that we have left behind the dictatorial politics. We respect differing views. It is but natural that we have differing views on important national issues like amendment of the constitution. The government has registered the bill with an honest belief to address the long-standing issues raised by the Madhesis, Janajatis, Tharus and other minorities. The government has proposed the amendment to secure a win-win situation for all by bringing all sections of the society on board on the basis of national consensus. We should never unnecessarily doubt the nationalism of our people irrespective of where they live. I have every reason to believe that wisdom will prevail, and the bill will be tabled and passed after adequate deliberations on it.

How can you claim that the bill will be endorsed as both the main opposition and disgruntled Madhes-centric parties are not supporting it?

I believe that all the concerned parties will realise the criticality of timely national consensus on the proposed bill. I propose that the amendment bill be allowed to be tabled and discussed and decided. This is the democratic process we all fought for and for which many of our sons and daughters sacrificed their lives.

The decision to separate the hilly districts from Province No 5 to create a new province in the Terai has created problems in the region. The opposition and some ruling party leaders have claimed that this would ultimately create a ground for the province to secede from the country.

Our country will never disintegrate. Our nationality is not so weak. The people from Madhes never wish to separate. They are nationalists and have been and will be defending the country in time of need. We have no right to insult them by doubting their loyalty to the nation.  I think our internal security will be stronger when all sections of our society come to a consensus on constitutional and political issues.

The opposition is saying that the government had brought the bill under the influence of foreign powers, especially the southern neighbour.

The government has forwarded the bill in the best interest of the nation. We have to address the nagging issues in the country sooner than later before it takes an ugly form. Blaming a neighbour/s on every issue that we think is not conforming to our political game is unwarranted. Any friendly country may give advice on certain issues as in the past, but it is up to us Nepalis to reject or take it based on our own national interest.

Now the issue of keeping the Nepal Army Peace-keepers under the command of the Indian Army has made headlines in the media outlets. What is the reality?

The news about keeping the Nepal Army Peace-keeping Force under the command of the Indian Army is totally fabricated. The Indian Embassy has already refuted it. So it is better not to engage in this discussion. The army of a sovereign country can never come under the umbrella of another country.

Almost five months have elapsed since the present government has been in office. How do you see the working of the government during this period?

The government has initiated many developmental works. The best example is the end of the chronic load-shedding. The Prime Minister has intensified the monitoring of major projects and directed the concerned officials for faster results. The government has shown it has the intention to take up vital activities that direct the country towards development and prosperity. However, one should never be satisfied with the accomplishments as there is always room for improvement.

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