INTERVIEW: Indian Ambassador to Nepal his Excellency Shri Manjeev Singh Puri was interviewed at length by President of the Reporters Club and senior journalist Rishi Dhamala. Ambassador Puri is credited for having a great rapport and loved by the Nepali people as compared to his predecessor. His Excellency has completed a successful tenure and bids Nepal farewell with a lasting message in one of the most informative interviews covering the entire gamut of India Nepal relations.
INDIA-NEPAL RELATIONS UNDER AMBASSADOR PURI’S TENURE
“I am happy that you said that the relationship is good, couldn’t have used a better word than that. Few civilizations, economies, and nations share a relationship like this, and I believe it has to be good and only good for getting better”.
“In my three years, I am happy that we have created a good political environment. PM Modi visited twice, and PM Oli visited twice to India”.
“We worked toward the development and prosperity of the people in my 3 years worked with concrete steps for the people, and I am thankful to my government and the government of Nepal and its people”.
“In all sectors, we have developed, politically, twice Modi visited, Janakpur, Muktinath, BIMSTEC, and inaugurated the Dharamshala. Joint inauguration of Birgunj integrated check post. Ease of doing business, the petroleum pipeline was inaugurated. I felt really happy”.
“Petrol prices reduced as stated by the PM of Nepal, we also have started inland waterways, agriculture, Raxaul to Kathmandu railway, and these will be developed. The difference will be felt in the future, the results will have a big futuristic impact”.
“Mahakali is a game-changer. Yes it is 20 years old, discussions are going on, and concrete decisions have to be taken, but it depends on the financial transformation of both nations. 5000 MW hydropower is a big project in terms of a global scale between two nations. we have to take things forward, time will not wait, neither will technology. We are rapidly moving towards technological changes. Look at the development of solar power more than hydropower that was thought to be a big thing. We have to have concentrated efforts and will take Pancheswor forward”.
“Prosperous Nepal Happy Nepali we Indians have a vested interest in this. We want to see Nepal develop, and it will be beneficial for India and its people. That will bring in trade tourism if there are financial leaps, so there is a vested interest. We want to see Nepal progress and progress rapidly”.
“India is the only country where Nepali Exports are rising, and it is the only big nation that Nepal is working with to increase its trade. Nepal will change its balance of payment drastically. Nepal will have more earnings than India in the long run in terms of trade”.
“Nepal has grown over the years, people have started eating, dressing better, consuming better, your economy is doing well, the production is not sufficient here. The manpower is being used elsewhere to send people here. Tourism Visit Nepal 2020, India is number one bringing in tourists here.
Add cross border tourism, the open border, villages across the border, and the hotels, businesses from the border. India will be number one. Attract people from the border, look at Nepalgunj and Bhaiwarwa the 5-star hotels that have been developed, and are packed to capacity. Cross border tourism has brought in a lot of money. Cross border tourism, has rapidly developed. Kailash Mansarovar religious tour is the center point Nepalgunj. There have been more than 15000 Indian tourists going to Nepalgunj for Kailash Mansarovar. Tourists have been increasing, and this is just one area. You do not get hotels and accommodations there anymore everything is filling soon. I am happy to have contributed to Nepal’s tourism sector.
BORDER DISPUTE RESOLUTION
When asked by journalist Dhamala regarding the border dispute of Kalapani, and an incident that when former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Narendra Modi met at Soaltee Crown Plaza hotel, PM Modi said that he was keen on resolving all issues, but have to give it in writing. After that discussion, nothing went forward. What is holding things back and how will the issue go for a resolution?
“98% of the border is demarcated. Strip maps are initialized and ready. some years back, India-Nepal came into an agreement, that the borders that were demarcated on watershed principle, the origin of the river which had geographical changes due to monsoons and weather changes, so we agreed on a fixed point principle since all our borders are inherited, this is a big change that has been accepted. The leftover issues will be discussed and resolved, nation-states take things differently we are geographically and culturally aligned, and all this is out of an inheritance. We have people to people relations”.
“Kalapani Indian Army stationed there when they will move out. Let us be very clear there have been no changes, what was there before is as it is now. We have to understand that there have been no changes to the external boundaries of the map. If you want to talk, have a discussion state to state the issue will be discussed which is normal. We have an 1800 Kilometers open border, there are many contestations, but it has to be resolved through dialogue. That is why diplomats like me are here”.
“We are responsible for the future of our generations that is our responsibility. The border issues have always been there and a matter of discussion. Two states, and two governments, there are styles and self practices”.
“We have moved from the watershed principle to fixed point direction. They will get resolved. Your government has sent us a request it is under consideration. Your view is personal keep it with yourself. There are a lot of mechanisms and processes to deal with things. Our relations are old, and our interaction is measured with thought and control and keeping in mind that we have to move forward together. There is a process which is undergoing”.
“Nepal and India channels have improved and are strong and this will resolve the dispute. Trade and finance are extremely complicated to involve people’s money, we have to have an expert level of dialogue. Discussions are the only way forward and diplomatically each side will keep its points, and then things will move forward”.
“Some matters are serious and I do not have an answer to a specific timeline. Nepal has sent its request and is under process, it will be known from Delhi. As we think of new India, you should think of a new Nepal, new thinking and the coming generation”.
“As an example, there was a time when the leadership in Nepal used to look at Kolkata and eastern India, after that changes and development, Delhi was the vision, then Mumbai. Today we see Nepalese are going to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Chennai. See the financial and societal changes due to globalization. How people change in taking their decisions and take things into a new perspective. Contemporary and dynamic future these have to be leveraged and converted to opportunities”.
“We share a unique relationship with Nepal. No two nations in the world have such an intricate relationship. Today there are issues. Tomorrow there may be more challenges. Look at how we are developing into a virtual world, cyber, space. There are challenges now and will come in the future too, but we have to convert them into lasting opportunities. We will move forward together”.
“There are many people have a different view regarding people. Our people to people relations are unique, we understand each other, culturally, and have deep ties with one another. It is a unique society, and political leaders and wealth creators utilize this then it will be beneficial for both nations especially for Nepal. India Nepal relations will improve, and both will have happiness”.
“EPG reports, 4 big leaders from both sides. From India Bhagat Singh Koshiyari’s current Governor of the State of Maharashtra and Nepal Ambassador to India Dr. Bekh Bahadur Thapa, both sides discussed. Our role was just to interact with them. it has nothing got to do with the embassy. Talk to the EPG people, the ambassador to India right now was one of the members maybe you can ask him. I cannot say anything on the matter it won’t be suitable for me”.
“Nepal has always been close. Especially in my tenure being from the Sikh sect, we celebrated 550 years of our founder and teacher Guru Nanak, and the government of Nepal released coins in honor. It was a mark of deep respect and I will always honor and remember that”.