Lawmakers raise questions over Modi visit

Kathmandu May 14

Lawmakers representing the CPN-Maoist Centre, the ruling coalition partner and opposition Nepali Congress today sought the government’s clarification on a host of issues related to the recently concluded visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The issued raised by the lawmakers in today’s meeting of the House of Representatives included the presence of Indian security personnel in Nepal during Modi’s visit, the government’s move to bar journalists from entering the venue where Kathmandu Metropolitan City organised a civic reception in honour of Modi, non-inclusion of the energy minister in the ceremony to remotely lay the foundation stone of Arun-III Hydropower project, Indian lawmaker Kirti Azad’s tweet demanding ‘return’ of Janakpur into India, Province 2 Chief Minister Mohammed Lalbabu Raut Gaddi’s speech at a civic reception in Janakpur, and allowing Indian Media in areas where they have traditionally been prohibited.

CPN-MC Spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said the announcement of dates of official visits of PM KP Sharma Oli to India and Modi’s visit to Nepal via Indian media outlets suggested that Nepal’s diplomatic efforts had weakened.

She also raised questions over security arrangement during Modi’s visit. “More than 300 Indian security forces were present in Nepal for Modi’s security. Does this mean the Nepali Army does not have the ability to provide security? If we are not able to provide security why should we invite guests?” she said.

Referring to Province 2 CM Gaddi’s speech, in which he had complained that Nepal’s constitution was biased, Bhusal said such internal matters should not have been stated before a foreign guest.

Stating that the issues related to border disputes were not resolved during bilateral talks, Bhusal said they would be watchful about implementation of agreements and understandings reached with the Indian side.

The constitution has provisioned that any decision related to natural resources should be endorsed by the Parliament with two-thirds majority, but Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun was not included during the remote laying of the foundation stone of Arun-III, according to Bhusal.

She also demanded removal of the Indian Embassy’s temporary office from Biratnagar.

NC leader Minendra Rijal termed CM Gaddi’s speech ‘voice of the government’ as he had the ruling left alliance’s support. He also condemned the government’s action against those peacefully staging protests with banners stating “Modi Welcome, But We Have Not Forgotten the Blockade”.

NC leader Gagan Kumar Thapa said the constitution only recognised the foreign minister, but not provincial chief ministers, when it came to foreign affairs. “I think our foreign minister also needs training on such issues,” he said, suggesting that all political parties, including both ruling and opposition, should have a common opinion on foreign relations.

NC Lawmaker Amaresh Kumar Singh raised the issue related institutional memory gap in relation to one-on-one meetings held between PM Oli and Modi over the past few months. “Who did PM Oli meet in Bangkok?” he questioned. “This government has destroyed institutional memory and transparency.”

Furnishing his clarification over the questions raised by lawmakers, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said the Indian PM’s Nepal visit was in favour of national interest.

“We will deal with foreigners in line with our guideline which we have in place. Internal affairs will not feature in bilateral agenda,” Gyawali said. “The bilateral meeting with the Indian side dwelt on narrowing down the gap between agreement and implementation.”

Foreign Minister Gyawali also said that the Indian side had already forwarded the draft memorandum of understanding for conducting preliminary survey for the proposed Raxaul-Kathmandu Railway.

On CM Gaddi’s speech, he said the federal government was responsible for any matter related to foreign affairs, and CM Gaddi’s speech was against the mandate of the constitution and diplomatic norms.

He condemned Kriti Azad’s tweet, terming it ‘an act aimed at jeopardising Nepal-India relations’.

Gyawali also said the government had taken seriously the issue of journalists being barred from covering the event, adding that the government would not repeat such acts.

He also said the government had full faith and confidence in the capability of Nepali security forces, but added that the Indian forces were Modi’s personal security.

Gyawali also clarified that the tentative date of Indian PM’s Nepal visit was fixed during Oli’s India visit last month. “We also raised the issue of the Indian Embassy’s temporary office in Biratnagar and the trade deficit Nepal faces with India.”