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Nepal soil won't be allowed to be used against India, says PM

By Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
August 17, 2009 16:13 IST
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On the eve of his maiden official visit to New Delhi, Premier Madhav Kumar Nepal affirmed on Monday that his country would not allow its soil to be used against India and sought the giant neighbour's cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development and power generation.

"This is basically a goodwill visit and I hope that it would take the existing cordial and close relations between the two countries to a new high," he told PTI in an interview at his official residence ahead of his departure for New Delhi on Tuesday on a five-day visit.

The purpose of the visit is to further deepen mutual trust and understanding, apart from exploring ways to expand cooperation, Nepal said. "We will review the Indo-Nepal relations in totality and find out where the hurdles are and suggest ways to clear them."The Prime Minister also asserted that Nepal will never allow its soil to be used against India. "We are committed to not allowing our territory against the interests of neighbouring countries, including India." He said Nepal was also opposed to pursuing the policy of using one country against the other.

Nepal said that during his discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi, a host of issues, including extradition treaty, the review of the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty, Bhutanese refugee problem, Nepal's peace process and matters relating to security and border will be discussed. "In the past we had initiated the process of reviewing the (Peace and Friendship) treaty," Nepal said, adding that this time also he would take up with his Indian counterpart the issue of review, update and adjustments in the 1950 pact. However, with regard to the extradition treaty and boundary mapping, no agreement would be signed this time, he clarified, adding it is a long process. "We would like India to help in the process of repatriation of Bhutanese refugees to their country in a respectful manner," Nepal said.

He said Nepal has been suffering a lot due to the two decade-long refugee problem involving 120,000 Bhutanese people and expects India's goodwill and help in resolving the matter. He said the "problems" that have prevented implementation of the past agreements and understandings between India and Nepal would be identified. "We will find out ways to move ahead by clearing all obstacles."

"We will work out a time-bound implementation of all past agreements and projects signed in the past," Nepal said, adding "we want India to increase whatever cooperation and development assistance we are getting from her." The Prime Minister said Nepal aims to seek benefits from its giant neighbours, which have made tremendous progress in the field of economy and achieved development. "We want India to help in our infrastructure development such as developing fast-track roads connecting Kathmandu to Terai, sub-highways in Terai, building of second international airport in Nijgadh of southern Nepal and constructing two regional airports in Bhairahawa and Lumbini."

"Nepal would also like to import more power from India and during my visit I would seek some 150 MW of electricity by building 400 kva transmission line," the Prime Minister said. In the short-run, Nepal would import electricity to solve its power shortage. However, "in the long-run we will build new projects and expedite works on the old projects so that we would be able to export power to India," he said.

The Prime Minister said that during his visit to India, he would push for the implementation of the Pancheshwor Multipurpose Project, which is highly beneficial for Nepal as the electricity generated from the 6,000 MW plant would be one-seventh of the normal hydropower projects. The project cost is seven times cheaper than ordinary power plants, therefore the work on it, including preparation of a Detailed Project Report, must be expedited, he said. The Pancheshwor Multipurpose Project was part of the Mahakali Integrated Treaty signed between former Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao in 1996 and the ruling CPN-UML here, which was in opposition that time, had also endorsed the decision. However, the project could not be taken forward due to political instability in Nepal.

Nepal also said that he would seek India's support in taking the peace process to its logical end and drafting of the Constitution within the stipulated time-frame of May 2010. The Prime Minister would be leading a jumbo 64-member delegation to his India visit. Among those accompanying him would be his wife Gayatri Nepal and six ministers, including Foreign and Commerce Ministers. PTI SBPKIM08171423 DELHINNNN

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
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