NEW DELHI: India has categorically denied any prospects of trilateral cooperation between Nepal, India and China for the development in Nepal, at least for now and near future.
While talking to a delegation of visiting Nepali journalists here in New Delhi today, Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid said, “I am not saying no. But it is too early to work on trilateral cooperation.” He was responding to a query by the delegation. “We have not reached that level yet. It’s only a vision,” Khurshid said in a candid and frank assessment which contradicts Unified CPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s recent statement following his visit to China that time was ripe for trilateral cooperation for the development in Nepal and elsewhere.
Dahal will be visiting India either on April 27 or 28, according to Khurshid. The UCPN-M chairman is expected to raise the issue of trilateral cooperation with the Indian side as well, but Khurshid was of the view that even some people in Nepal ‘were not very comfortable with the idea’.
Stating that India and China are enjoying a very meaningful working relationship at bilateral and multilateral levels, Khurshid said the idea of trilateral cooperation was not important enough to lose the opportunity of bilateral cooperation between India and China.
On a different note, Khurshid acknowledged that New Delhi’s concerns have grown in recent years in the wake of historic changes Nepal has gone through. “Since Nepal has undergone historic changes, we need to put in more time, need to focus more and need to have interaction with more people,” he said.
On federalism in Nepal, he said voices of all communities should be heard and reflected in the law, as it would be the guiding characteristic of democracy. Khurshid, however, said it’s always up to the Nepali people to take a decision to this effect. Yesterday, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai had told the Nepali delegation that ‘India does not have any model regarding the demarcation of federal states in Nepal’.
“Our policy is to assist in achieving the priorities of Nepal,” Khurshid said. “In some cases, Nepal’s priorities might contradict those of India, but our concern is to find a meeting point.”
Regarding India’s official invitation to UCPN-M Chairman Dahal, Khurshid said India has, and wants to have, good relations with all the political parties in Nepal. He also said that India does not take side with or promote or isolate any particular party or group in Nepal. “We are not saying one is better than other. We will welcome all,” he added. “We don’t favour anyone. We will not isolate anyone.”