Clarifying that India-Nepal relations are at their lowest ebb at present, Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Oli on Thursday said rebuilding that lost friendship is “our biggest mission”.
“I am not expecting to come back home bag-full, but I definitely will want our friendship reoriented on mutual trust and respect. I do believe that the pursuit of honourable conduct in our relations matters more than mere refined language,” Oli told reporters on the eve of his six-day visit to India, his first foreign visit since assuming office last October.
Oli, who will lead a 46-member delegation, said, “Having to rebuild the ruined foundation is a tall order. But we will do it in a fine way. We will extend a hand of true friendship towards India, and will expect the same from the other side.”
Aware that Nepal’s Parliament and the high-level political machinery that wields enough clout over the government has issued a series of ‘dos and don’ts’ for him, Oli said “We will do nothing controversial, or (anything) that goes against the interest of Nepal.
Known for his wit and sense of humour, and at times acerbic remarks, Oli said, “This is a visit without agenda. In another sense, it is a visit beyond and above the agenda.”
Referring to the perception in India that the Nepal PM has been playing the ‘China card’, he said, “I am not a gambler and, therefore, will not play any card. I have no trust in any card, and I will not play it against one or the other. I believe in honest plain-speak, and in friendship; not so much in diplomacy.”
There were however indications that all is not well in the four-month-old coalition, with Kamal Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs from the pro-monarchy Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, opting out of the press meet at the last minute. Thapa is part of the official delegation, and the media interaction was supposed to be a joint event in the Prime Minister’s Office. Speculation is rife that the India visit is being handled more as an effort of the Maoists and the UML, the PM’s party, than that of the government.
Asked about the purpose of his visit when New Delhi has not “fully welcomed” the Constitution of Nepal, Oli said, “The fact that India is extending state honours to a Prime Minister elected under the provision of that Constitution clearly amounts to extending full recognition to the Constitution.” Emphasising that he will invite Indian investment to Nepal, he said, “There is a conducive atmosphere for investment in Nepal, and I will guarantee the protection of that investment.”