Narayan Kaji Shrestha
Foreign Minister, Nepal
TGQ1: Being in government for more than nine months, you have only recently talked against the BIPPA pact signed with India. Is it that you expected that this BIPPA issue should have been mentioned in the talks at the extended plenum and since it did not came as you wished then you raised your serious concerns? Is it so? How you interpret it Minister Mr. Shrestha?
Shrestha: It is not that. I didn’t raise this issue because it was not mentioned at the plenum meet or not. The issue should have been raised or not is not the cause behind my raising this issue at this time.
To recall and tell you frankly, I had raised my serious reservations against the BIPPA at a Cabinet meet prior to the deal was signed with India. Later even I raised the same issue and forwarded my dissent while being in Delhi in the course of signing of the BIPPA treaty with India. I had told that it was not the right time to sign this covenant with India. But since the deal had already been approved by the Nepal Cabinet and when the Nepal PM insisted on having this deal with India, I was just helpless to block its signing. So what could be said that this deal saw the light of the day while our Prime Minister was in an official visit to India?
I had two points to add strength to my contention. The first point was that in my opinion deals of such far reaching consequences couldn’t and shouldn’t be signed unless we enjoy national consensus back home in such a transitional period that was then as well and also made it clear that such treaties prior to signing, the party as such must have made an institutional decision which was a matter related with party’s internal procedures. The second point in my opinion was that prior to signing the treaty we must have explored as to how this deal may have its negative impact on the development of our own national capital and that is why I had further suggested that let’s study the internal dynamics of such a treaty prior to signing it. But the freshly concluded plenum did not sort the matter out and what was decided was that the party will look into this issue around the time of the general convention of the party associated with debates and discussions. Yet this should not mean that I once again pushed my own reservations on the stated issue. Albeit, our differences remain intact on the issue mentioned above.
TGQ2: There are two differing opposing opinions as regards the BIPPA deal: the first is the blind supporter of this pact and the second one is just the otherwise. You had gone to Delhi with the Prime Minister. Tell us which are the issues which demand discussions and the needed corrections? Your opinions please
Shrestha: I am of the opinion that this issue must be studied in its entirety. A comprehensive study the subject matter demands in earnest. We must have some targeted approach as to what of our own national capital after signing the treaty? We should think what of our capital if we bring in foreign investment? What should be our national policy in this regard? In the name of bringing in the foreign investment, what will happen to our own national capital? Can it develop? Does it mean that has Nepal lost its nationalist capital formation stamina? Or is it that the only way left for Nepal is to assimilate the Nepali economy with the Indian economy? Should it mean that we are left with no suitable alternative other than the one just mentioned above? We must provide convincing answers to these pertinent questions.
Question is also if we make some minor mistakes not having any ill intention, the state may compensate the other side, but how can the State go on compensating the other side even if some small untoward incidents do take place? Can the state compensate on such events on a regular basis? Has the state that much economic stamina? What is the guarantee that such facilities, regarding providing of the compensation to the other party, may not be misused? Such issues have been incorporated in the said pact. Thus what is needed at this time is a policy wise formulation which will determine on how to proceed with the foreign investment in the country. Yet the fact is also that the manner our economy is attached with the Indian, we cannot deny this fact on moral grounds. All put together, we must comprehensively study this matter is what I wish to say.
TGQ3: Your party talks double about this BIPPA deal. The Finance minister while presenting the budget accepted this deal as a major achievement while you talk against it. Your party chairman remains silent and even he did not mention about this BIPPA in his fresh document presented at the plenum. Even on questions of national independence, your chairman has put it in a different way. How should we take all these?
Shrestha: The fact is that the Nepali cabinet had approved that BIPPA so it was bound to be signed with the Indian side. May be due to this fact, the finance minister may have inserted in his presentation paper. The real fact is that I had my reservation about signing this pact with India in the cabinet meet which I also expressed in New Delhi prior to the inking in ceremony of this deal. But I don’t think that the issue wherein I pushed my personal reservation only comes in a determined manner on matters of national independence. This is not what I want to say. The fact is also that our party chairman has not completely ignored BIPPA deal in his fresh presentation but whether BIPPA was good or bad or should we have signed this deal or not must have been discussed at a Forum while the seventh plenum was in progress. We ignored this issue which could have been clearly defined and come to a resolute decision. But the available documents do talk that on matters related with BIPPA deal, party members do possess differing opinions. This is a thing which can’t be hidden for a long time. You can’t hide such issues for long.
TGQ4: It is being rumored that the Indian regime is not at all happy with you simply because you put hurdles while approving the BIPPA deal by the cabinet and as if this were not enough, you for one even brought problems while signing this deal in New Delhi? More over talks are also there that Nepal government has already handed over the management of some fifteen Nepali airports to the Indian company. We have learnt that the agreement paper is ready to be signed. What say you Mr. Shrestha?
Shrestha: I am at the moment still continue to be the Minister of Foreign Affairs of this country and also the DPM which doesn’t allow me to make off the cuff remarks on such questions mentioned by you. Yes, I am the one who feel that Nepal must have intimate relations with both Indian and China. I am of the opinion that we must proceed ahead with this line of thinking. I firmly believe that in order to preserve our independent nationalism, Nepal must be friendly to both of the immediate neighbors. This means that we will take the positive things that exist in our bilateral relations in a positive manner and wherever we have differences, we must take those issues to be tackled through diplomatic channel. We can’t go beyond this line of thinking.
As regards your associated question, let me clarify you in this way. In the manners these issues have come to the public knowledge are not true and based on facts. No such agreement have been made as of now on the issues mentioned by you. I too got to know through the newspapers and thus out of compelling curiosity I just wanted to get the details. As far as I understand the issues, the disseminated news are far from being correct and that nothing as such has been agreed upon which allows the handing over of the management of our airports to the Indian companies. No agreement as such has taken place as of now. But yet one Memorandum of Understanding with that particular company has been made and later our Investment Board sent a letter to the Indian company for submitting a sort of proposal. At least these acts have come to my knowledge. But take it for granted that no such formal agreement has taken place as of now as is being talked.
TGQ5: Interestingly, the Nepali Media is highlighting you as one of the crusader of Nepal nationalism and has already surpassed Mohan Baidya for talking on these nationalist lines? What say you? Also tell us as to why you have been trying to run the government through Presidential decree? It is being talked that you prefer to amend certain clauses through the ordinance in order to conduct the polls? Do you think election held through decree will be a democratic one?
Shrestha: No! Such acts much depend upon your own personal behaviors. If someone believes and hopes that I should not raise the issue pertaining to the preservation of Nepali independence then I should say that I can’t help it. But the manner it has been propagated that this issue has taken a heavy toll inside the party is not correct to a greater extent. It is always better to bring to discussion and debates those issues wherein we differ instead of hiding the entire topic. No one needs to panic and it is not a matter which should be under the ambit of suspicion.
As regards your complementary question, I say no it is not that. We have some compelling reasons and so the announcement of Presidential decrees must not be taken otherwise. We haven’t told that we will amend the constitution through decree and it would not be a suitable affair as well. Ordinances can be made if you need certain amendments that do not go against the existing laws and regulations. What we have said is that we have already announced the conduct of the CA election and thus the government should act accordingly. Preparations must be made for accomplishing the announcement of the poll. We will have some ordinances which do away with the hurdles for the conduct of the poll only but will in no way bring in Presidential decree for the amendment of the constitution itself. If need be then we will go in for having a national consensus for the same. We can’t do it alone. It definitely demands a national consensus. So we are at the moment pretty engaged in finding a way out for materializing the things that have already been announced.
Text courtesy: The Mahima Weekly dated July 26, 2012. Sincere thanks: Ed.