Nepal-India Relations: From the Perspective of Democracy and Development

India completed 70 years of its independence. The progress that India has made in various sectors is an exemplary story of our times. India’s achievements in the fields of science, technology, and social innovation have been a particular inspiration.

India has also proved that it is democracy that binds diverse societies together while promoting tolerance and individual dignity. By showing one can achieve these high ideals even at low national incomes; democracy has been India’s gift to developing world.

We hope for a strong, stable, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Nepal. We know this is also in the interest of our neighbours. On our part, Nepal has made it clear that under no circumstances would it allow its soil to be used against its neighbours. Beyond solidarity India is also one of Nepal’s most important partners in development. It has been a reliable friend and neighbour in need and hardship.

We are grateful for India’s generous support towards socio-economic change, and humanitarian assistance in Nepal going back decades. We also share several regional and global platforms. It is our firm conviction that international cooperation is not a choice but a compulsion. Nepal aspires to grow together with SAARC and BIMSTECcountries.

Our main priority is better connectivity of infrastructure, technology, energy, markets, ideas and high culture. We also seek meaningful cooperation in trade, investment, tourism and finance.

Transnational challenges such as terrorism, climate change, natural disasters and food security pose a new genre of challenges. Nepal condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We call for concerted efforts to combat this menace wherever it is seen. In addition to natural hazards like the earthquakes of 2015, Nepal is also bearing the brunt of climate change despite negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

We recall with pride the active participation of great Nepali leaders like B.P. Koirala in India’s freedom movement. They responded to the call of Gandhiji, boycotted government schools and joined the Quit India Movement in 1942. B.P. Koirala taught us, “Democracy is indivisible, if you want democracy at home, you cannot afford to neglect all struggles for it.” He believed that when the British rule ends in India, it would be Nepal’s turn for democracy. He was prophetic. In seven decades of struggle, democracy has seen ups and downs in Nepal. We are grateful to the people and the Government of India for their goodwill and moral support for all democratic movements in Nepal since the 1950s.

After the historic people’s movement in 2006, Nepal today is in midst of a profound transfor-mation. The constitution we promulgated in 2015 was written in the most democratic and inclusive manner. It accommodates aspirations of diverse ethnic groups. It guarantees every woman right to lineage and right to property without discrimina-tion. All full and fair gender balance is ensured in all high offices of state.

Still, we consider our constitution to be a living and dynamic document that is open to revisions as and when required. Just three days ago, we voted on an important amendment to address the concerns raised by people from Tarai-Madhesh. Though the amendment did not muster the two-thirds majority of votes required, the process brought to the forefront the wider acceptance and importance of the issue raised. It showed the commitment of parties like the Nepali Congress to redress grievances of its citizens.

As all of us know, politics is process. For our democracy to mature, we have realized that it is necessary to overcome the legacy of the past. We will take everybody along on the journey towards greater prosperity, inclusion and dignity. Democracies must deliver to stay relevant in a world that is deeply inter-connected. Today’s citizens demand better governance to advance their rising aspirations.

Our foreign policy is dictated by the interest of the Nepali people and the principles of Panchsheel. The five principles of peaceful co-existence that are derived from the teachings of Siddhartha Gautam – the enlightened son of Nepal. Nepal’s foreign policy priority begins with its neighbouring countries. We consider trust as a pre-requisite to an enduring relationship. Nepal-India relations are unique and unparalleled in character. People of the two countries share special bonds and affinity. From Janakpur to Ayodhya, Lumbini to Bodhgaya, or Pashupatinath to Vishwanath, we share a common set of values, culture and civilization.

The advent of democracy has further honed people-to-people contacts and deepened mutual trust across a wide spectrum. But my emphasis is on the fact that the more policy challenges become complex, the greater the salience of democracy to garner consensus and mediate likely conflicts.

The world watches Asia with great interest today. While this region is the world’s brightest spot in the 21st century, there are also major challenges staring at us. We need to work together to make the most of existing opportunities. A shared vision of prosperity based on the foundation of peace, stability and democracy, we hope, will uplift us all.

And we believe that Nepal and India – as one of the closest neighbours in the world – have a vital bearing on this march towards greater freedoms and progress. No country, however big and powerful, can deal with these transnational challenges alone. This demands stronger partnership and deeper collaboration among us all.

In November 2016, I had the honour of delivering the 12th Nehru Memorial Lecture at Jawaharlal Nehru University. There, I argued that a vision of economic prosperity and political freedoms must go hand in hand in the 21st century. I had raised a few development challenges that we must all confront together.

The first is about our young demography, and the challenge of finding decent, well- paying jobs on a mass scale at a time when the world is witnessing the fourth industrial revolution.

The second is about harnessing renewable resources, such as hydro-power, and mitigating climate change. How do we manage our common natural resources?

The third is probably the biggest generational challenge of our times. It is about ending absolute poverty by 2030, narrowing inequality within and across countries, and reducing vulnerabilities.

The fourth issue is to grapple with both the challenges and opportunities that come with intense urbanization. How do we build sustainable cities and prosperous villages?

And the fifth development challenge of our times will be to adapt to new patterns of production, trade and employment that are being disrupted by technological breakthroughs. How do we manage dislocation of established patterns of livelihood? I am only flagging these issues.

*This article is a summary of the speech delivered by Shri Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of

Nepal at the Civic Reception hosted in his honour by India Foundation at New Delhi on 24th August, 2017.

(This article is carried in the print edition of November-December 2017 issue of India Foundation Journal.)

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