Dipan Kumar Shrestha
Youth Leader, Nepali Congress
Mr. Dipan Kumar Shrestha is the young leader of Nepalese Congress from Sankhuasava district. He is now in Kathmandu in a private visit. The Telegraph Weekly and telegraphnepal.com has initiated a campaign to promote youth leadership in the country. As a part of the campaign, Sujit Mainali for The Telegraph Weekly and its online edition has talked to this energetic young politician on different internal and external aspects of Nepali politics during his brief visit to Kathmandu. Here are the excerpts of the interview: Editor.
Q1: Nepali Congress (NC) recently experienced fierce internal squabble between senior leader duo, Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba and Mr. Ramchandra Poudel, for Prime Minister's candidature. As a youth leader of the NC, how do you perceive such lust for power observed among your senior leaders?
Dipan: I think I have to correct your question slightly. That was the healthy competition for acquiring power and this competition was abiding democratic norms and practices. Indeed politics is the competition to take hold of power. Everyone who involves himself in politics has some vision to transform the country. They want to reach to the power corridor in order to materialize their vision. For this, the leader has to compete both inside and outside the party. The situation which prevailed inside our party was a healthy democratic practice.
Q2: A sizeable section of analysts accuse the current leadership of NC for having forgotten the philosophy of Democratic Socialism coined by B.P. Koirala, the founder of NC. Do you see any rationale behind such a grave accusation?
Dipan: I do not completely ridicule such accusation because it is partially true. We too have felt that our leadership has failed to implement the theory of democratic socialism coined by towering leader of Nepal, late B.P. Koirala.
After the advent of democracy in 1990, our party repeatedly got chance to steer the country. While being in power corridor, our leadership had tried to put into practice the ideology of B.P. for the overall welfare of the country and the people. However, due to various constraints, they did not succeed in this regard.
We, the youth of our party, are upset with such pitiable situation. We are time and again exerting pressure on our leadership to strictly abide by the ideology proposed by late B.P. And I firmly believe that we will succeed in convincing our leadership in this regard.
Q3: Nepal has yet not come out from the prolonged political logjam and the peace process and the constitution drafting process is in a grinding halt state since long. Mr. Dipan, what, in your opinion, might be the root cause of this political stalemate?
Dipan: Its root cause is trust deficit among the major political parties. Nepal's major political actors were united against monarchy through twelve point agreement signed in New Delhi. However, this unity couldn't last long. The political fraudulence of Unified Maoist is solely responsible for such disgraceful situation.
Because of several situational compulsions, NC had agreed to go for Constituent Assembly (CA) election prior to the demilitarization of the Maoists. The Maoist had publicly committed to conclude the peace process within 6 months of the post CA election period. However, till now, Maoists are continuously refusing to demilitarize itself. Such acts of the Maoist have created great suspicion about their very intention. I think this is the root cause of the problem.
Q4: Can you forward some candid proposal on how to solve this problem?
Dipan: Why not? For this, the Maoists must be sincere on the issue of integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants. They have to forward candid proposal regarding this and their proposal should clearly indicate the number of combatants the Maoist wishes to integrate in the security apparatus of the state. Then the other parties will discuss on that proposal and national consensus can be made on the number of combatants to be integrated and rehabilitated. Prime Minister Mr. Jhalanath Khanal has already resigned from the post and this is most appropriate time to build the atmosphere of national consensus. If Maoists bring acceptable proposal on the issue of arms integration, then the NC will cheerfully accept the Maoist led national consensus government.
Q5: Let's change the context of our conversation. In your home district Sankhuasava, India’s state-owned Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) has already signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Nepal government to run 402 MW Arun-3 hydropower projects. However, the local people are against the agreement. Could you please make this issue more clear?
Dipan: The local people of Sankhuasava district are not against the agreement. They are just insisting the government and the Sutlej to make their deal public. Till now, we are not aware about the contents and provisions of the agreement. The locals must know what is going to be happen in their vicinity. They must know how they are going to be benefitted from Arun-3 hydro project. And at large, they must know whether the agreement is in the overall interest of the nation or not?
From the informal channel, we have heard that Nepal will be provided 21.9 percent of the total electricity produced from the hydro projects. First of all, the agreement should be made public. If we find the agreement is in overall interest of the locals and the nation at large, then we, the people of Sankhuasava, will provide any kind of support to the Sutlej in harnessing the electricity.
Q6: The locals of your districts are also urging to build Kimathanka route so that road connectivity can be established in between Tibet Autonomous Region (TOR) of China and Sankhuasava district. Mr. Dipan, could you please make our august readers aware about the justification of such a demand?
Dipan: Both the local and national interests are associated with this demand. Right now, Tatopani route is the only road in use for trading purpose in between Nepal and China. Bilateral trade between the two countries is gradually rising and some more routes should be opened to further boost the bilateral trade.
Our economic dependency with our southern neighbor India is at its peak. With the help of this strength, India has time and again tried to bully in the internal affairs of Nepal. If Nepal succeeds in enhancing its trade relations with China, it will help Nepal to counterbalance the economic might of India in Nepal.
The opening of Kimathanka route is also in the overall interest of our both neighboring countries. Several studies have shown that Kimathanka-Jogbani route will be the shortest highway to establish road linkage in between two most populous market of the world, India and China. If this route comes into existence, Nepal will be developed as a transit point between the two largest markets of the world. This, at large, will be in the overall benefit of South Asia.
Q7: Before some months, it was reported in some reputed media of Nepal that Sankhuasava district is becoming a heavenly place for Free Tibet activists. Could you please tell us what the real thing exactly is?
Dipan: I too had read those media reports. However till now, I haven't got any clue about the activities related to Free Tibet Movement in our district. We are in regular contact with the security and administrative body of the State in Sankhuasava. We haven’t found any case filed against any Free of the Tibet activists. Till now, not even a single Free Tibet activist has been arrested from our district. Therefore, it is totally erroneous to accuse Sankhuasava for being a heavenly place for Free Tibet activists.
I think some vested interest groups are deliberately spreading this type of false propaganda. They do not want Kimathanka route to come into operation. By creating brouhaha of Free Tibet activities in Sankhuasava, those groups want to make China very reluctant for not opening the stated route.
The people of Sankhuasava have very cordial relations with the people of TOR of China. The locals from the five VDC of our district i.e. Kimathanka, Chepuwa, Hatiya, Pawa Khola and Makalu, depend on Chinese market for purchasing food and other daily consumer items. Those vested interest groups want to wreck the harmonious relation that exists in between the people of Sankhuasava and China by propagating the false uproar of Free Tibet Movement.
Q8: Why do you think the issue of Free Tibet activities raises in Nepal very frequently?
Dipan: Nepal and TOR of China share 1400 km long borders. In the Nepali side of the border, the tribal group of Sherpa community lives. These peoples follow Buddhism. The Free Tibet Movement is in some way related to the Buddhism. Dalai Lama is the guru of Buddhism. Therefore, some vested interest group wants to make China wary by abusing this religious affinity.
Nepal as a nation state is more dependent with India. If China appears in Nepal, it will curtail the Indian influence in Kathmandu. China and India are now experiencing some sort of cold war. But Nepal and China have very cordial and harmonious relation at both state and peoples-to-people level. Some alien funded group(s) of people want to ruin such cordial relation. They want China and Nepal to confront each other. For this purpose, they are trying to unnerve China by propagating the assumed threat of Free Tibet activities from Nepali soil. Indian and western media are deliberately spreading such false propaganda.
Countries of Western Europe and US also have their interest in Nepal. They want to step in Nepal in order to watch China from very a close distance and to contain it ultimately. This is possible only if Nepal's relation with China worsens. If it so happens per chance, then Nepal will be compelled to go to the lap of US and Western Europe in order to counterbalance China's might. Therefore, the western countries are funding Free Tibet activities in Nepal and western media are vigorously propagating it. The Westerner's are creating background to oust China from Nepal and keenly looking to fill the vacuum.
Q9: Mr. Dipan, you made quiet unique and interesting remarks about hidden fact associated with Free Tibet movement in Nepal. Now let's talk about the security concerns of our neighbors. China and India frequently express their wariness about their security concerns in Nepal. Do you think their concerns are reasonable?
Dipan: Their caginess is totally baseless. Security and administrative organs of Nepal are capable enough to defend their legitimate security concerns. Nepal is fully committed for not allowing its soil to be used against its neighbors. Our neighbors are trying to intervene in Nepal in the name of addressing their security concerns. This should be immediately stopped.
Q10: A sixty member jumbo Chinese delegation led by Standing Committee member of politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and China’s National Security Chief, Mr. Zhou Yongkang has recently concluded the much hyped Nepal sojourn. Just prior to their visit, Prime Minister Mr. Khanal resigned from his post. The Chinese delegation felt insulted by this and they formally expressed their dissatisfaction during their meeting with the Nepali leaders. Could you please forward your precious comments on this matter?
Dipan: The Chinese delegation should not take it seriously. PM Khanal had already fixed the deadline to resign from his post. His decision was not meant to hurt the sentiment of the Chinese delegation. It was the compulsion of the Nepali politics. The Chinese should take this as a mere co-incident only.
Q11: The Chinese delegation, while meeting Foreign Minister of Nepal Mr. Upendra Yadav, made quiet unique remarks. The Nepali media quoted them as saying, "Ask for any support, we will provide it pleasingly." Mr. Dipan, please tell us what might be the implicit meaning of their saying?
Dipan: India is involved in several development activities of Nepal since long. However, China, up to now, has been providing peanut support to Nepal. China might have realized this fact. The above saying of the Chinese delegation might be the manifestation of their sincere realization.
Only by increasing aid and investment, China can counter the influence of India in Nepal. And further, this can help China to earn sympathy of the Nepali people. Indeed, this is the other form of competition between China and India in Nepal.