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Eminent Persons' Lecture Series - Political Developments in Nepal: Problems and Prospects

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  • June 17, 2010
    Speeches and Lectures

    Speaker: Hon. Sujata Koirala, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal

    Mr. Chairman,
    Distinguished Participants
    Ladies and Gentlemen:

    1. First of all, I would like to thank the institute for Defence Studies and Analyses for providing me with this opportunity to share my views with such an enlightened and important audience. I see around me here my trusted friends, and a galaxy of intellectuals. I feel honoured and proud to be amongst you all this afternoon.

    2. I do not think it necessary here to reiterate and highlight the age-old ties between Nepal and India which are characterized by cordiality, goodwill, mutual trust and cooperation. Our bilateral relations are multifaceted in nature and scope. They encompass political, socio-economic and cultural dimensions, and many more. Besides, exchange of high-level visits and interactions among the leaders have further deepened, widened and heightened our relations. Exchanges and interactions between our peoples are the defining character of our bilateral ties.

    3. If compared with its immediate neighbours, Nepal is small in size, population and economy. However, due to its geographical location between India and China and the resources it possesses, Nepal is geo-strategically important in South Asia, and beyond.

    4. As Nepal has been facing the problem of unemployment, illiteracy and poverty, compounded by a decade-long insurgency, it is in dire need of international support in the priority areas. Such areas include restoration of damaged physical infrastructures, maintenance of fiscal balance, undertaking balanced economic development, creation of income generation activities, implementation of poverty alleviation programmes, and so on. In this context, we highly value the economic and financial assistance rendered by the Government of India since the early 1950’s. It has greatly contributed to the development of infrastructure, education, health, agriculture and other important sectors. India’s support has greatly supplemented to our efforts of nation building.

    5. Investment is another area of our priority in which India has the largest share. The Government of Nepal encourages public and private sector of India to invest in Nepal in the sectors mutually agreed upon. Hydro-power, tourism, trade, and road connectivity and other infrastructure are main areas with greater potentials for long-term cooperation. Cooperation in these areas may also help reduce Nepal’s huge trade deficit with India in the days to come.

    6. Nepal and India have unique relationship. We share open border which presents both opportunities and challenges. It has facilitated the movements of our peoples across the border to undertake activities for livelihood and sustenance. On the other hand, misuse of the open border by criminals has become one of the main challenges for both Nepal and India. Therefore, it has now become imperative to check such transnational crimes. I believe that these problems are not insurmountable. It is my strong conviction that constant vigilance by local administration along the border points and sharing of intelligence and developing counter intelligence mechanism between the existing security agencies of both countries needs to be intensified, reactivated and modernized.

    7. Nepal and India have more than two dozens of bilateral mechanisms dealing with specific issues of mutual concern from political to sectoral expert level. They are meeting off and on, and charted out courses of action to resolve existing problems. But their decisions are not properly implemented. I believe that the main cause of frustration among the peoples on both sides arise from the non-implementation of these decisions. This has helped only to add anger of the people towards the governments of both countries. Therefore, implementation of the decisions taken, and the agreements and Memoranda of Understanding signed should be implemented in an effective and efficient manner with due sense of urgency by both countries.

    8. Let me now come to the internal situation of Nepal. I know that you are quite aware of, and closely following, the political developments in Nepal. There is a deadlock among the major political parties on the issues of drafting new constitution and making the peace process conclusive. It is a fact that we could not complete these national issues within the stipulated time frame. But, I am happy to inform you that the tenure of the Constituent Assembly has been extended till May next year, with a broad consensus among all the political parties. We have taken it as a manifestation of the serious commitment of Nepal’s political parties to draft the constitution and bring the peace process to its logical conclusion. The present Government is working hard to realize these common objectives.

    9. It is also a reality that there is still divergence of views among the parties supporting the government and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN)- Maoist in the opposition, about the procedures for drafting the constitution. The UCPN-Maoist wants first to form the government under its leadership, before moving ahead with the drafting of new constitution. On the other hand, the parties supporting the government want the UCPN- Maoist to fulfill its commitments made under various agreements and understandings in the peace process. The present government is ready to accommodate legitimate demands of the Maoists as per the rules and regulations of the country, which were set with the support of the Maoists themselves. The Government in turn expects the Maoists to be flexible as well. The present political uncertainty in Nepal is the result of inflexibility and rigidity on their part. They are still very adamant, uncompromising, and insisting on irrational demands against their own commitments. Our people are still suffering from Maoists’ atrocities, including forceful seizure of properties, targeted attacks, extortions, and other many unlawful activities. Fear still persists among the people. We have been calling upon the Maoists to become more flexible, comprising, and realistic. At this moment, I proudly recall the sterling job done by Girijababu, my late father, to bring the Maoist party into the mainstream of Nepalese politics, to hold elections for Constituent Assembly and to transform the county into a Republic.

    10. Nepal is facing a number of serious problems. They include drafting a new constitution acceptable to all major stakeholders, maintaining law and order, meeting the requirements and legitimate aspirations of the people, and giving continuity to development projects. We are very clear that we can not draft constitution without the support of the Maoists. At the same time, we are also aware that time is running out very fast. Though we have extended the term of the Constituent Assembly by one year, this term will also pass by soon. If we cannot formulate an acceptable constitution within the remaining eleven months, the country will plunge into an unimaginable abyss, not to mention the tarnished image and shattered credibility of the major political parties in the eyes of our people. Therefore, formulating a broadly acceptable constitution and taking the peace process to its logical conclusion are our shared responsibilities, from which no party can escape.

    11. We also know it very well that, given the divergent philosophical base of the political parties, it is not easy to reach consensus and achieve our immediate objectives. There is no alternative but to reach a common minimum ground where all of us can meet, and move forward together. In view of this, we have proposed a six-point work-plan, which is very close to the aspirations of our people. This work-plan includes –

    1. Management of Maoist combatants under a formula acceptable to both sides. It includes options such as integration into the society, opportunities for foreign employment, rehabilitation and integration into security agencies, and monetary incentives by the government.
    2. Dismantling of the paramilitary nature and structure of the Young Communist League (YCL).
    3. Constituting a Commission to look into, and solve, the problem of the properties seized by the Maoists. The properties seized by the party should be returned to their owners without delay, and those by landless squatters may be taken care of by the government.
    4. Prepare specific work-plan to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Process and formulate a new constitution, and strictly adhere to it.
    5. Implementation of all agreements and understandings reached under the peace process; and
    6. Formulation of a national consensus government after reaching agreement on the above points.

    12. My party, the Nepali Congress, has remained very open to negotiations, very flexible, and sincerely committed to the peace process. We have been urging others too not to accord high priority to forming or leading the government. This is the time for charting the right course of action for the country. Our reasoned policies and moves will give the country a right direction. This will also generate hope among our people, who deserve far better future for themselves and their children. We are also convinced that a strong and effective central government is a must for addressing the problems of the people, and leading the country to the right direction.

    13. The international community, too, has a stake in Nepal’s peace process. As I said in the beginning, Nepal has strategic importance not only for its neighbours, but also for the world at large. A peaceful and prosperous Nepal will be conducive to the maintenance of peace and security, and achieving development goals of its neighbours. It will contribute to the peace, progress and prosperity of other countries and regions. We all know it well that instability in a country creates problems for others as well. We are all sailing through the same waters. This is why we expect constructive and positive response form the international community in general, and from our neighbourhood in particular.

    14. I thank you all for your patience and attention.

    Thank You.