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‘India should not compare itself with China, as far as Nepal is concerned’

Suchi Govindarajan works as a technical writer, and pretends to be a photographer.
Published : May 15, 2016, 1:09 am IST
Updated : May 15, 2016, 1:09 am IST

Deep Kumar Upadhyay’s tenure as Nepal’s ambassador to India was rather short, if eventful.

Deep Kumar Upadhyay (Photo: Sondeep Shankar)
 Deep Kumar Upadhyay (Photo: Sondeep Shankar)

Deep Kumar Upadhyay

’s tenure as Nepal’s ambassador to India was rather short, if eventful. As soon as he assumed charge last year, a devastating earthquake struck the Himalayan nation. This was followed by another “political” earthquake in the form of the Madhesi agitation. In this interview to

Sridhar Kumaraswami

, days after he was sacked by the Nepal government and before his return to Kathmandu, the Nepalese envoy spells out his views on why India-Nepal ties are unstable and the road ahead for the two neighbours.

Why were you suddenly sacked by your government Was it on account of your previous association with the Nepali Congress You are also perceived to be close to New Delhi. It was a political decision. I was appointed by the previous government. As an ambassador, my job was to strengthen ties between India and Nepal. When I was appointed ambassador to India, I suspended my links with the Nepali Congress. As an ambassador, one has to be neutral. I will not speak against my government. All I will say is that, perhaps, there was some misunderstanding.

But there were reports in the Nepalese media that the government was upset because you had allegedly visited the Terai region with Ranjit Rae, the Indian ambassador in Kathmandu, and that your role was suspected in the Nepali Congress’ bid to remove Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli from power I don’t give credence to these reports and don’t like to go by hearsay unless I get some specific communication in this regard from either the ministry of external affairs or the Prime Minister’s Office in Nepal. I never visited the Terai region with Mr Rae. There was a programme planned by Nepal’s far-west tourism corporation to promote jungle safaris in Mahendranagar. It was supposed to be an event to promote regional tourism in Nepal to which both the Indian ambassador to Nepal and I were invited. But it never took place due to the Madhesi stir and it was mischievously projected by some that there was something more to it.

Your removal was triggered by your opposition to the cancellation of your President’s visit to India. There was talk that this was done because Mr Oli was upset with India. My recommendation to my government was that the scheduled visit of Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to India should go ahead as it will strengthen ties between the two nations. She was to visit Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. But it was called off. The visit has now been suspended. But I hope it takes place soon.

There is a feeling in New Delhi that India gets blamed whenever there is political turmoil in Nepal since the three main political parties there can’t get their act together In a democracy, what matters is the numerical majority. That is both the beauty and error of democracy. Whenever there is some political turmoil on this score in Nepal, we should not rush to blame others. Currently, we have a hung Parliament where no one has a clear majority. Look at what happened in Uttarakhand. The Congress and the BJP were engaged in a tussle. Eventually, one party had the numbers on the floor of the House. But whenever there is such political turmoil, one should not blame it on other factors.

Mr Oli’s government is seen to be pro-Beijing. Do you think China can emerge as an alternative to India as far as Nepal is concerned Can we change our geography Nepal is bound on the east, west and south by India. This border with India has easy accessibility and terrain. It is an open border. We have cultural similarity with India. We have a “roti-beti” relationship. The unique ties that Nepal has with India cannot be built with any other nation. Yes, no doubt, China is also our neighbour and we want good relations with them as well. China has surplus money and good relations with them will make us economically prosperous. But the border with Tibet (China) is at an altitude of 16,000 ft. It is not so easy for transportation of goods at such a height. It is practically very difficult.

Do you think Nepalese politicians love to use the China card frequently against India, upsetting the Indians India should not always compare itself with China, as far as Nepal is concerned. Doesn’t India have confidence in itself Trade, in fact, has grown between Nepal and India. Nepal is now more dependent on India. The Indian government should always ensure that the Nepalese do not suffer.

During the Madhesi agitation, there was a shortage of essential supplies in Nepal which resulted in anger among the people. Even when movement of goods stopped at the Birgunj border, I was persuading the Indian government to rush supplies through other checkpoints. I urged them to see the sensitivity of Nepal as a landlocked country. They eventually saw my point of view. The movement of supplies is in full swing now. No matter what perception a government may have, people-to-people ties matter. When the earthquake struck, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went all out to send relief aid to Nepal. It was something that touched us and we will always remember it.

Do you think the differences between the “Paharis” (hill people) and the “Madhesis” (people of the plains) in Nepal can be resolved to the satisfaction of all Why not Even if there is a regional dispute, it can be resolved. That is democracy. We have to talk to each other. My forefathers migrated to the hills of Nepal from India more than two centuries ago. But my own home now is in the Madhes region. Kapilavastu in the Madhes region was my constituency when I was in active politics. The Constitution can be amended by consensus to make the situation better. But no amendments are possible without the support of the Nepali Congress.

How would you describe your experience as an ambassador to India Do you plan to plunge into active politics I believe in the eastern philosophy that life is one learning experience from birth to death. Being an envoy to India has been a great learning experience for me. I will now visit my constituency Kapilavastu. I avoided going there while I was an ambassador since I was on a diplomatic assignment. My people are waiting eagerly for me. I will return to Nepal and consult them on what my future course of action should be.