‘Visit fruitful, I had candid talks with Indian leaders in Delhi’The Maoist Centre chair on his three-day India trip, its purpose and the outcome.
CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal concluded his three-day India visit on Sunday. He had left for New Delhi on Friday, two days after a high-level Chinese delegation completed its Kathmandu visit, holding talks with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Dahal, CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Unified Socialist) chair Madhav Nepal. Dahal’s trip to the south had piqued curiosity in Nepal just while he maintained that it was planned a few months back and that it was taking place at the invitation of Jagat Prakash Nadda, the national president of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Though Dahal was expected to meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he returned home on Sunday without meeting him. After arriving in Delhi on Friday, he met with Indian Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. On Sunday, Dahal met with BJP President Nadda at the BJP headquarters before wrapping up his India visit.
The Post’s Rajesh Mishra spoke with Maoist chair Dahal earlier on Sunday about his sudden visit to Delhi and asked him about the purpose and outcome of the visit.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
How do you sum up your India visit?
I feel like my visit to India has been as I had thought it would be. Before I left Kathmandu, I had said that I was going with an enthusiasm to talk to Indian leaders on various aspects of Nepal-India relations. I realised the significance in the way BJP's foreign department chief Vijay Chuthaiwale [chief of the international department of the BJP], external affairs ministry officials and our ambassador [Shankar Sharma] welcomed me at the airport.
What were the points of discussion during your talks with the Indian External Affairs Minister Jaishnakar and National Security Adviser Doval?
I had a talk with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in the presence of foreign secretary [Vinay Mohan Kwatra, former ambassador to Nepal]. We held extensive discussions on various bilateral issues. In 2015, I did not have a good experience of the meeting with Jaishankar [Jainshankar as the foreign secretary had made a sudden dash for Kathmandu to request Nepali leaders to halt the constitution’s promulgation in 2015]. However, this time we had a candid conversation. He also felt the same. I could sense it from his body language. It was a good conversation. I also addressed a meeting of intellectuals and members of a think-tank. The comments I received were positive too. I raised the point that dialogue should be started on all disputed issues including the 1950 treaty and EPG [Eminent Persons Group] report and that a solution should be found through dialogue. I laid emphasis on that.
What did you talk about with BJP President JP Nadda?
I have been exhilarated after meeting him. Since coming here, I have held fruitful and successful conversations in a very good environment. As you know, I have come here at the invitation of the president of the BJP, which is the largest political party in the world. Upon my visit to the party office, I observed the management of the party and saw, among other things, how a party office is run.
Nepal’s relationship with India had become cold after the constitution was amended to include the new political map of Nepal. How did you find the status of bilateral relations?
Now there are positive signs to move ahead by resolving the [outstanding] issues. I found that the relationship between the two countries is heading towards a positive direction with an increase in economic activities and other matters.
It seems that the understanding of many people in India is that Nepal is tilting towards China. How do you view it?
It is absolutely wrong to assume that we are tilted towards any country. Ours is a balanced foreign policy. When I was the prime minister [in 2017], I sent envoys to both countries simultaneously. It established a balance with both countries. And, at that time, the Indian government and the people had praised it as a positive step of my government. The same thing happened in China. And there was support from both sides. As a result, the election process commenced from the Tarai to the mountains. I had received support from both countries. We do not believe in tilting towards one country or the other. In the past, it was customary for the monarchs to align with one or the other which would create disputes. What I have been saying constantly since the peace agreement [in 2006] is that we have to maintain good relations with both our neighbours. We are neither pro-China nor pro-India… we have said that our policy should be pro-Nepal.
Sher Bahadur Deuba was made the prime minister from the alliance. Will there be a change of guard?
We have not discussed this matter concretely. However, I understand that the prime minister is flexible on this matter. He is positive. On the issue of power sharing as well, he says that we should go together and work in tandem. However, we have not discussed the matter concretely. I don't see it as a big problem. If you ask me about my aspirations about becoming the prime minister, I already have received offers—from everywhere. However, becoming prime minister is not important to me. What is important is safeguarding the constitution and democracy, holding elections and fulfilling the desires of the Nepali people for development and building good relations with neighbouring countries as well as other friendly nations.
Like in 2017, in the run-up to the elections, is there any “surprise” to those inside and outside the country of a left alliance this time?
In my talks with the Nepali Congress and its leaders or Indian leaders, I have told everyone that there will be no surprises this time. The current alliance of the ruling coalition will continue. The current alliance will continue to work in the direction of addressing the development aspirations of the people to protect the constitution and democracy.