Strong Foundations for Nepal-India Friendship

~ By Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’

I feel honoured for being felicitated amidst this august gathering by the India Foundation on the occasion of my State Visit to India. This is a rare privilege and I do not have words to express my gratitude.

I am equally thankful to the Foundation for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts on Nepal-India partnership for 21st century at this gathering of intellectuals and luminaries from different walks of life.

It was back in September 2008, I embarked upon my first visit to India as Prime Minister of Nepal. That was a historic visit, a visit from the first Prime Minister of Republican Nepal. The visit provided us with an opportunity to cultivate friendly relations with Indian leaders and to explore the new avenues of cooperation in the context of vastly changed political landscape of Nepal.

The memory of that visit is infused with the affection shown by the friendly people of India; with the assurances of support and cooperation expressed by the leaders of India.

And as I am visiting your country second time as prime minister, exactly after eight years, the affection has got more generous; the assurances have got more genial; enthusiasm is enormous; and hope is high.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

My life has been a journey of struggles. Struggles to dismantle the clutches of feudalism, of autocracy. Struggles to set the democracy free from the shackles of tyranny. Struggle for people and their rights. Struggles against the social discrimination. Struggles against the despotism in all hues.

In my struggles I had always carried two weapons with me. Two most powerful weapons – determination and optimism.

Determination for vibrant present,

Optimism for better future,

Determination for change,

Optimism for development.

These resolves have been tested on many occasions. I have witnessed the setbacks; encountered the hurdles; and experienced the obstacles. However, my hope and enthusiasm could not be shaken up. My determination did not die. My optimism did not succumb to cynicism.

I have faced the ebb and flow of politics. However, my quest for change, my determination for progress, couldn’t be drained away.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends

India is our close neighbour. Our two countries, Nepal and India, have an immemorial history of harmonious co-existence. We are connected by geography as well as history, by our religions as well as culture.

Our relations are sanctified by the wisdom of saints and sages. Our bonds are strengthened by connectivity as well as commerce.

Our relations began even before the history began to be recorded; they began in the dawn of human civilization in this part of the world.

Our friendship stands on the bastion of good will – good will emanating from the people of Terai, Pahad, and Himal.

The foundation of relations between our two countries rests on cordiality, goodwill, cooperation and mutual respect for sovereign equality. Peaceful coexistence defines our stable friendship.

As friendly neighbours, our two countries have been aware of each other’s concerns and sensitivities. Nepal has not allowed its land to be sued against the sovereign interests of India. We are firm in our resolve to maintain that position. And it is natural that we expect similar assurance from India.

Today, in the 21st century, our age-old relations have emerged as more extensive, and multidimensional. The depth of relations has been enriched and the scope of cooperation has been broadened.

The depth of our relationships cannot be fathomed merely through the formal relations between the two governments. The people-to-people interactions and exchanged are at the core our relations. The open border between our countries dictates us to share a bond of good friendship forever.

As the world sees new walls and barriers, ours can be an example of free movement of people.

As the world sees new conflicts and animosity, ours can be an example of unique amity.

True, we have seen some intermittent glitches in our relations. But they are mere aberrations. The transient aberrations have no potency to dilute our relationship.

True, we have seen some misunderstandings on both sides. But they cannot hold our mutual goodwill in hostage.

As the world sees the insular fences that are hostile to dialogues, ours can be an example of open and constant exchanges.

True, we may not agree on all of the issues. But our differences cannot hijack the prospect for collaboration.

And the history implores us to take our relations to newer vistas of opportunities, to newer heights of mutual benefits, to the novel territory that suits the intricacies of 21st century.

Dear Friends,

India is the land blessed by noble saints and sages, learned rishis and munis. It is the land of Gandhi – the apostle of non-violence. It is the land of Swami Vivekananda – the key figure to promote Vedanta as well as inter-faith awareness. It is the land of Tagore – an epitome of art and literature. It is the land that has conceived many other geniuses who inspired the human civilization.

As the largest democracy in the world, India has an important role to play in global affairs to make the world order just and democratic.

This century belongs to Asia. And India has an important role to make the 21st century an Asian century. The astounding strides made in the industrial development; the inspiring examples unleashed in the field of invention and innovation; the pioneering progress in IT; the remarkable growth of the economy. All of those are set to put India on the global forefront.

The illustrious journey of India as a major economic powerhouse is an inspiration for me and my country.

The splendid stride of India as a nation of innovators is an encouragement for me and the people of my country.

The impressive march of India as the global hub of IT and digital economy is a stimulus for the young generation of my country.

It is my belief that the development trajectory of India will further succeed under the able leadership of Prime Minister Modiji.

For Nepal, India remains the largest trading partner. However, the problem of bilateral trade deficit looms large. We need to focus our attention to diversify our trade basket and scale up the volume of exports from Nepal.

To increase the flow of good and augment trade, we need to invest in infrastructures and streamline the procedures.

India has extended generous assistance to finance development endeavours of Nepal. It has helped to diversify our economy, build up the infrastructure, and enhance our industrial base. However, there is much to do to scale up our economic cooperation.

To further intensify the economic cooperation, we must create the stories of success; we must translate our pledges into performance.

Nepal and India are endowed with resources, both natural and human. The 21st century should not be the mere century of potential and resources – lying untapped and dormant.

The abundance of resources needs to be transformed into the opulence of wealth. That transformation will trigger the development.

Potential needs to be unleashed for prosperity. That unleashing of potential will propel the prosperity.

And that transformation can excel only at the behest of closer partnership and stronger commitment.

Nepal’s hydropower development is an important sector for bilateral partnership. It will benefit the people and industries of both of our countries. It is my belief that Nepal’s hydropower, if developed properly, will not only help transform Nepal’s economy, but at the same time can contribute to ‘Make in India’ initiative launched by Modiji in September 2014.

To accelerate the investment in hydropower projects, we have to implement the Power Trade Agreement, which we had signed back in 2014. We need to ensure unrestricted market access on both sides in order to convince the investors. We may think of going sub-regional to promote energy cooperation, and I see a better prospect within the framework of BBIN.

The people of Nepal stood by India during its struggle for independence. Today, they are standing by the people of India in their quest for development.

India remains one of the most preferred destinations for students from Nepal. The prestigious institutions, high-quality academic ambience and ever evolving innovative rigor of Indian universities and schools have lured students from Nepal. This has facilitated the sharing of ideas, connected the minds and has brightened up the prospect for collaborative future.

Thousands of Nepali nationals are working in the Indian job market. They have contributed to the economic development of India. And the remittances they bring home have equally helped the economy of Nepal.

Similarly, a sizeable Indian workforce is in Nepal. Some are engaged in semi-skilled sectors. Some are employed in skilled sectors. Their contribution is mutually rewarding to both our countries.

This exchange of workforce is not just the exchange of people. It is the exchange of skills and exchange of experiences.

This flow of remittances is not just the flow of incomes. It is the flow that links our two economies; it is the flow that feeds several thousands of families in both countries.

Nepal is an attractive destination for Indian tourists. Attracted by the natural heritage as well as religious sites, Indian tourists have contributed to Nepal’s economy.

Similarly, India is an attractive destination for Nepali tourists and pilgrims too. The beautiful heritages of this large country and its pious shrines have enticed a large number of Nepalese.

These phenomenon of visits, for vacation as well as veneration, have been the vehicles of familiarization with each other’s countries, interaction among the people. The air connectivity, direct bus services and open border have augmented this exchange.

To enhance the flow of people, for enterprise as well as tourism – we need to further expand air connectivity and road linkage.

To infuse our relations with more substance; to imbue our friendship with more harmony; to make our relations mutually rewarding; and to contextualize our relations as per the needs of 21st century.

We need to build on our commonalities.

We need to engage in dialogues to enhance understanding.

We need to synergize our engagements.

And, we need to capitalize on our strengths.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When the devastating earthquake struck Nepal last year, India acted promptly and spontaneously for the rescue and relief of victims. At the difficult hour of national tragedy, people of India stood by us. That reflected the closeness of our relations.

Allow me, dear friends, from this podium to express once again my thankfulness to the Government and people of India for the generous assistance they extended in times of crisis.

Also, allow me to thank the Government of India for its generous pledge for the reconstruction works. This gesture of fraternity is fresh in our memories and will remain so for many years to come.

Dear Friends,

For the last two decades, Nepal has undergone unprecedented political transformation. People’s movements and struggles for democracy succeeded to usher the nation into the new era of democracy and inclusiveness, new era of federalism and decentralization.

A decade-long armed conflict came to an end, when we signed the Comprehensive peace Accord in 2006. Yearning to charter their own constitution, Nepali people elected their representatives and formed the Constituent Assembly.

This gave way for the end of feudal era and the establishment of the republican government, where the sovereignty rests with people, where human rights and fundamental freedoms are guaranteed to all Nepalis without any discrimination.

In all these epoch making events – from the people’s war and people’s movement to the promulgation of the constitution – my own party, CPN Maoist Centre, was on the forefront. Support and solidarity received from the international community including India in our home grown political transformation and peace process were definitely of great importance.

Our quest for democratic polity, inclusive governance and federalism was materialized last year when the second Constituent Assembly promulgated the Constitution of Nepal. The new constitution has embraced the system of inclusive democracy, federalism, rule of law, and respect for human rights as per the aspirations of diverse communities in the country.

Within the last two decades, many epoch-making changes have occurred; significant political achievements have been made. And the responsibility lies on our leadership to institutionalize these changes through the effective implementation of the constitution.

Therefore, the present Government has prioritized the implementation of the Constitution by bringing all segments of Nepali society on board.

I would like to mention that the dialogue with Terai-Madhes-based political parties has already started. I believe that this dialogue will soon bring about tangible result.

Concluding the remaining task of the peace process is equally important priority for the present Government. The Government is committed to concluding the remaining tasks, including the transitional justice, as envisaged in the Peace Accord and according to the spirit of the peace process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Political transformation remains fragile in the absence of socio-economic transformation. Creation of inclusive and right-based society remains elusive without economic development. Peace cannot prosper if society starves in poverty.

Aware of this reality, socio-economic transformation is high on our agenda.

The world in this century is interconnected like never before. The scale of globalization is unprecedented. The scale of interdependence is extraordinary.

In this globalized and interconnected century, individual efforts alone will not be sufficient to achieve the objective of development. It demands collaboration and cooperation at bilateral, sub-regional, regional and multilateral levels.

Nepal and India share the collaborative platforms in various regional and sub-regional forums. Our countries have vital role in the SAARC and BIMSTEC. In the pursuits of regional development, we have engaged closely in these forums. BBIN initiative provides yet another important platform for sub-regional collaboration.

The tremendous growth performance of our two neighbours comes with plethora of opportunities for growth and development. And, as both of these economic giants are engaging in large volume of trade and investment, those opportunities are getting more pronounced. We need to capitalize on unfolding opportunities to forge a productive partnership for development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Yesterday, I had a very friendly and fruitful meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modiji. We covered a wide range of areas of mutual interest in our discussions. Our deliberations were substantive and positive.

We are ready to inject new dynamics into our relation, without letting the misunderstandings of the past derail our friendship.

To embark upon the path of closer partnership, we should buttress trust and enhance understanding.

To inoculate understanding of higher order, we should not be dragged down by the unpleasant experiences.

The enablers for cordial friendship, collaborative partnership and mutually rewarding relations are there. We must build on those enablers to boost our relations. We must seize the opportunities to make our relations fruitful to the lives of our peoples. As close neighbours, we share a common destiny which demands collective pursuit of prosperity.

I firmly believe, and hope you all would agree, a peaceful, stable, prosperous and democratic Nepal is in the interest of India as well as that of our larger neighbourhood. This reality must inform our thoughts and actions in forging a partnership for 21st century. A partnership that befits our intimacy and shared destiny.

Finally, let me conclude by reiterating my hope for closer and mutually rewarding relations between our two countries in this 21st century.

I thank you once again for such a wonderful opportunity.

I thank you all for your kind attention.

(This article is the text of the speech delivered by Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, Hon’ble Prime Minister of Nepal, on the eve of civic reception in his favour hosted by India Foundation on 11the September, 2016.)

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