Talk on Nepal-India Diplomatic Relations

Speech delivered by His Excellency Manjeev Singh Puri, Ambassador of the Republic of India, on Nepal-India Diplomatic Relations, April 26, 2017

[Abstract of the address: Ambassador Manjeet Singh Puri remarked that India and Nepal were so close that both were proud of their bilateral relations. He stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation for development and said that there were about 500 development projects spread over the various parts of Nepal, which included the construction of roads and development of hydropower.]

The world is globalizing and coming together and no country no matter how small or large can be left out. As diplomats, by learning about other countries you will have a good vantage point.

We need to keep being engaged with the world. I have been to Nepal many times. There is a sense of connectedness amongst our people. We live in an area of much connectedness.

Geopolitics is not the end of the world. There are many interactions that are taking place.

We are close to one another. There have been four visits by heads of state in six months. That is something to be proud about.

We need to focus on the issues. We need to consider connectivity. The fact is that South Asia is the least connected area of the world. We know there is politics behind some of this. However, we don’t have to allow politics to influence everything.

We are proud of our partnership with Nepal in implementing several big projects. In the 1960s, we constructed the East-West Highway. That spirit of partnership and cooperation with Nepal to ensure Nepal’s well-being continues. Today, we have 500 small development projects spread over every district in Nepal. These projects are all partnership projects and they are led by Nepal.

For many of us, diplomacy was about political and security concerns. Today, we have expanded our scope to make our services more citizen and people centric. We offer now citizen services and consular services. We started economic diplomacy 25 years back. You are the law and you are the enforcers of the law. You have to work in someone else’s environment. The world is somebody else’s and you need to negotiate.

We are working in roads and power. Hydropower is very important for us. Hydropower projects are long term projects and have a long gestation period. We need to ensure that we do not have endless discussions. The fact is that ‘best’ is the enemy of the ‘good’. We would all like the best deal possible. But in the real world, good is often what we have to settle for.

All natural resources have their limitations and that is also true for hydropower. We have projects that have gestated for 20 years. We need to ensure that they are made operational as soon as possible. We really need to scale up our power production. The fact is that electricity consumption is linked to material well being. We should therefore make all possible efforts to increase hydroelectric production.

Interaction with Trainees

Question: In the light of the role of the media in influencing diplomacy even at the bilateral level, how can we take relations between our two countries further?

Answer: Everyone has the full right of being proud of their sovereignty. Look at what is happening in the world. Social media has been taken over. We have to accept change. We have to be mindful of the fact. The Nepalese media has a certain orientation when looking at India. I accept that fact. However, I have to work with everyone, irrespective of his/her views. We need to work on actually making things happen.

Question: What is the cornerstone of Indian policy? How will you protect the rights of Nepalis in India?

Answer: The cornerstone has always been to ensure an international environment that ensures that we have a better life for our people. We want to improve our relations with all countries so that we can focus on development. Nothing is more valuable for us than enhancing the well being of the citizens of our country.

The whole world has been going through systems like KYC. These have complications. I lived abroad for many years. Even for me, it took time to get into the Indian system. These systems are geared for Indian citizens and not overseas residents. Now, Nepal and India have an exceptional relationship. Therefore, as these new systems are being developed in India, we have to find ways to ensure that Nepalis are able to use them with as little hassle as possible. We need to find exceptional clauses that exempt Nepalis from facing some of the more onerous burdens.

Question: How can we facilitate the people to people relationship?

Answer: Many of the ties, business or otherwise, that has been built up over the last few decades has come about out because it is the natural course of doing things and because it is beneficial for both parties. In the future, the relationship may be even more beneficial for you. In the future, it is really for Nepal to take advantage of the huge and rapidly growing market potential of India.

Question: Will something substantial come about in the case of the Koshi basin?

We have really underexploited cooperation on water basins; both for the sake of irrigation and for the sake of harnessing hydroelectric power. We must work on them and we must work very fast. It is very important for us to recognize that this resource, water, could be less useful in the future at the rate that technology is progressing. We must take advantage of water resources quickly, keeping in mind that resources have to be used sustainably.