Thursday, May 2, 2013

India has no stance on federal model: Indian foreign secy

NEW DELHI, April 23: Brushing aside the allegations that India is putting ‘undue pressure’ on the Nepali political leadership to have only one or two provinces in Tarai-Madhes region, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on Monday said India is ready to accept any decision Nepal takes on federalism.

Talking to a group of Nepali journalists at his office in South Block, Secretary Mathai said India has a policy of supporting whatever decision Nepali people take on future federal setup in Nepal. “…whatever decision is taken it has to be sustainable decision. That decision can be sustainable only if political parties have consensus on it. What India thinks or other countries think is not going to be lasting,” he said.

Secretary Mathai also clarified that India does not have any federal model that Nepalis have to follow. “It is up to the Nepali people to decide through their related representatives what model they would like and whatever model they accept we will be happy to work with Nepal,” he further said.

The remarks of Secretary Mathai come amid allegations from a section of political parties in Nepal that India has been putting undue pressure on Nepali political leadership not to have more than two provinces across the southern plains bordering India.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai (File Photo: Google)

There had been widespread protests in Kathmandu after an Indian consular based in Birgunj reportedly asked local level political leaders to launch a movement against the decisions of major parties to go for several provinces in Tarai-Madhes weeks before the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (CA) in early April 2012.

“In fact, whatever is the consensus that emerges through the Constituent Assembly elected by people directly and whatever compromise is worked out among the major parties and they finally come to some conclusion, that has to be the basis for going forward,” he said.

Secretary Mathai also took note of the ‘anti-India’ protests that a section of Nepali political parties are engaged in with reference to federalism. “On our bilateral relations, there is no issue. And I don’t think there should be any basis for anti-India feeling on this [federalism] issue. We have repeatedly said whatever is the wish of Nepali people we will respect it,” he further said.

When asked about Indian embassy’s field office in Biratnagar, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in Kathmandu claimed was opened without due process, Joint Secretary (North) at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Akhilesh Mishra said they will do the needful. “We are also aware of some requests Nepal government has made. We will take up the issue,” said Mishra, who accompanied Secretary Mathai in the meeting with Nepali journalists.

The Indian embassy had opened a ‘field office’ near the Koshi Barrage to provide ‘permits’ to Nepali vehicles in the aftermath of a breach in the Koshi embankment at Kushaha, Sunsari district on August 18, 2008. The office was relocated to Biratnagar without consent from the government after the broken road section was repaired a few months later.

The newly-formed Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist, which is leading an alliance of various 33 parties that are taking to the streets against the proposed elections by the chief justice-led poll government, has made closure of the ‘illegally’ operating field office of Indian embassy in Biratnagar as one of its several demands.

Secretary Mathai said the issue can be discussed in the foreign ministry and resolved amicably. “We have got a long-long experience of other countries opening embassy in our country. We have always done in accordance with the wishes of the host country. These are matters which can be discussed in detail in the foreign ministry,” Mathai said.

Mathai said India is eagerly waiting to see Nepal government announce date for fresh election. He said they can start holding consultation with the political leadership to hold the long-pending meeting of Nepal India Joint Commission at the earliest possible date once the poll date is announced. The joint commission is the highest-level bilateral mechanism, which is mandated to discuss and take decisions on whole gamut of issues between Nepal and India such as economic cooperation, trade, transit and water resources.

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