Nepali Times Asian Paints
Interview
"India would like to see stability return"



Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood spoke to Nepali Times on Wednesday touching upon the political deadlock, his embassy's response to media criticism, the Mahara Tape, and the UNMIN extension.

Nepali Times: All the current media attention on you must be a bit stressful?
Rakesh Sood:
Before taking over my present assignment in Kathmandu, I spent three years in Afghanistan which was also stressful, but in a different way!  So I have become used to it.  But on a serious note, Nepali media's focus on India and the Indian Ambassador is a reflection of the intimate relationship between our two countries and our people.  The breadth and depth of our relationship makes it both intense and complex.  However, I must confess that misleading and baseless reports carried by certain sections of the media are hardly helpful!

Is there anything about being an Indian Ambassador to Nepal that makes it different from being Indian Ambassador to anywhere else?
As I mentioned, the Nepal-India relationship is unique.  Our shared history and cultural traditions, people-to-people relations going back into millennia, open border, extensive economic and commercial linkages, our role as Nepal's key partner in its economic development - all these factors make India-Nepal relationship an extremely close and multi dimensional relationship. Naturally, any close relationship becomes a sensitive relationship and this makes the task of the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, both challenging and rewarding.

There has been criticism of the response from your Embassy on the negative reports of Indian products in Nepal, especially the stoppage of newsprint and advertising to media critical of India.
First, Dabur is an Indian brand but the product in question was produced by Dabur (Nepal), a joint venture in your country.  Secondly, to date, Dabur has not been given any evidence of the defective product on which a controversy was raised in a certain section of Nepali media.  As far as the embassy's response is concerned, I must clarify that it is part of the embassy's duty to safeguard interests of Indian citizens as well as Indian businesses.  At the same time, I have also said that if any wrong doing on the part of Dabur (Nepal) is proven, the embassy will be as forthright in demanding that Dabur (Nepal) maintains its stated quality standards.

As far as stoppage of newsprint is concerned, this is incorrect.  The consignment was held for customs examination.  Now and then, certain consignments are held up for detailed examination and with the Embassy's intervention, the consignment was released well within acceptable timeframes.  Greater cooperation on the part of concerned Nepali entities would have been helpful.  There have been other instances too where consignments are taken up for detailed examination but do not get dragged into media controversies. 

Regarding the issue of providing advertisements by private companies, these are decisions that corporate houses take on their own, depending on their marketing and media strategies.  In doing so, they are bound to take into account that in terms of brand image, advertising of Indian products or joint ventures would be more consistent through channels which present a balanced image about India and India-Nepal relations, which is understandable.

I must add here that there are more than 300 Indian joint ventures in Nepal which provide direct employment to more than 30,000 Nepali citizens, indirect employment to more than twice that number and has contributed nearly Rs 15 billion to the Nepali exchequer last year. All of them have a strong interest in better relations between India and Nepal because they have brought in more than Rs. 25 billion of investment.

Wouldn't you agree that the method in which the Mahara Tape was released hurt the credibility of the content?
I think, this question should be addressed to those who have released the tape.  However, on the question of substance, Nepal's Constituent Assembly is already seized of the matter and therefore I will refrain from making any comments on it.  Let the Nepali authorities undertake their own investigation regarding the authenticity of the contents of the tape. 

The media in your own country is now saying that there is greater polarization between India and China over Nepal.  Do you see it that way?
I have already explained the special character of India's relationship with Nepal and therefore it will be an injustice to see this relationship, today, through the prism of a third country.  Nepal, like India, is a sovereign country and conducts its relations with other countries in accordance with its own policies. 

What is your view on another four month extension of UNMIN's mandate in Nepal?
India has consistently supported the peace process in Nepal.  We welcomed the establishment of the UNMIN in 2007.  In fact, we provided more than 80 vehicles and 50 wireless sets to UNMIN to help UNMIN activities get going and even today the containers in which the weapons are stored are provided by India. Extension of UNMIN's mandate is a decision taken by concerned Nepali authorities. India believes that the peace process in Nepal, in order to have legitimacy, must be Nepali-led and Nepali- driven.

Is it true India is against the formation of a Maoist-led government in Nepal?
The formation of the government in Nepal is a matter to be decided by the people of Nepal.  As a neighbouring country which has close ties with Nepal, India's interest is seeing the peace process being brought to its logical conclusion, so that a new constitution can be drafted, thus providing for political stability and creating an enabling environment for Nepal's economic development.  As you will recall, Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, after being sworn in as Prime Minister, was in India on an official visit in September 2008 which he himself described as "highly successful and satisfactory".  He paid a second visit two months later for the BIMSTEC Summit.  Even after his resignation in May 2009, we have maintained our interaction with the Maoist Party as with all other political parties.  Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has also stated that he wants to maintain good relations with India.  Our External Affairs Minister who visited Nepal in January this year and Prime Minister's Special Envoy Shyam Saran who visited last month - both had detailed exchanges with him.  It has been pointed out to him that India is a democracy and there is a public opinion in India, therefore, anti-Indian statements made by some Maoist leaders and affiliated organizations are not consistent with building better relations. 

Is this linked to the intensification of the Maoist insurgency within India itself?
India and Nepal have an open border and movement of people takes place in an unregulated manner.  The Government of Nepal has consistently assured us that it would not permit the use of Nepali territory for activities directed against India. Some Maoist leaders have made certain provocative statements but as yet, there has not been any evidence of current operational links between the Maoists in Nepal and the Naxalites in India.  Given our security concerns however, the situation remains under constant observation by the concerned agencies. 

How would you characterise the present state of relations between India and Nepal?
Notwithstanding the fact that Nepal has been going through a political transition in recent years, India-Nepal relations have grown in recent years and I am confident, will continue on their upward trajectory.  Today nearly two-thirds of Nepal's foreign trade is with India and nearly 45% of Nepal's foreign direct investment comes from India.  Nearly six million Nepali nationals work in India contributing to the growth of remittances in Nepal.  40% of Nepal's tourists come from India and as number of Indian tourists traveling abroad grows from current 12 million to 50 million by 2020, I am sure many more of them will include Nepal in their list of preferred destinations.  In February this year, we revised our Air Services Agreement and have increased the seat capacity from 6000 per week in either direction to 30000 seats per week for six metro stations in India with an additional unlimited seat capacity from another 21 cities in India.  From 30 flights per week between the two countries five years ago, the number of flights today has more than doubled.

In the last two years, we have increased the number of scholarships for Nepali students from 800 to nearly 1800 today.  Of these, 1100 scholarships are for students studying in Nepal while the balance are for studies in India covering a range of disciplines from medicine, engineering, management, agricultural and veterinary sciences, traditional Indian systems of medicine, music and fine arts, cyber law, etc.

Our economic cooperation programme has also grown rapidly.  Under the Small Development Scheme there are 360 projects currently under way at a total cost of over Rs.600 crores, spread over 63 districts in Nepal.  These include schools, multiple campuses, hospitals, community centres, roads, bridges and other infrastructure.  In addition, there are major projects on which work has begun " development of railway infrastructure at five border points along India-Nepal border, development of 1600 kilometers of road infrastructure in the Terai where Phase-I accounting for 640 kilometers has already begun; development of four Integrated Check Posts along India-Nepal border where work on two of them, Raxaul-Birgunj and Jogbani-Biratnagar has begun; the 200 bed state of the art Emergency and Trauma Centre at Bir Hospital; Manmohan Adhikari Polytechnic at Hetauda, etc.  All this brings our total assistance outlay to over Rs.50 billion.

Our cooperation programmes are undertaken in close coordination with the Government of Nepal and the local communities.  Not many people are aware that since 1973, India has been providing assistance to the Goitre Control Programme which has helped bring down Goitre disorders from 44% of the population in 1985 to as low as 0.4% by 2007 or that since 2001 India has worked with Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh providing free ophthalmic medical check-up to 4.25 lakh Nepalis and undertaken 75000 tracoma and cataract surgeries for visually impaired and provided spectacles and visual aids to over 18,000 school children or that we have gifted 282 ambulances and 54 buses to different organizations in Nepal over the last 15 years. 

There are many other aspects to our economic assistance and cooperation programme but I have just referred to a few, to provide a snapshot of how multifaceted India-Nepal relations are. I am confident that with such a strong foundation, India-Nepal relations are going to grow stronger at all levels " government-to-government, business-to-business and people-to-people. 

Does India feel that its current policy on Nepal is yielding the desired results?
India would like to see political stability in Nepal.  This is first and foremost, the task for Nepali political leadership.  As I have mentioned, our interest in political stability in Nepal arises from our open border, the large Nepali diaspora in India and close economic and commercial linkages between the two countries.  However, it is not Indian policy that can bring about political stability but the desire and commitment of Nepali political leadership. As in the past, India has always indicated its willingness to support the efforts of the Nepali political leaders.  With regard to our policy on broadening and deepening our relationship I have already highlighted some areas in previous paragraphs. With a return to political stability in Nepal, I think we will be able to accelerate the forward momentum in our bilateral relations. All of them have a strong interest in better relations between India and Nepal because they have brought in more than Rs. 25 billion of investment.

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1. who cares
i do not understand in which point indian and chinese interests conflict. cause india's interest is terrorism, fake currency, resource etc where as chinese interest is tibet.


the problem in nepal between these two is cause of india trying to increase its influence which have been fuelling chain reaction.  


nepal is too dependent on india, nepal souring relation with india means suicide. so the only reason nepal would ready to go that way would be to protect our dignity, threat. 

dont indian policy makers see that when ever india do something stupid, nepal incline towards china or other countries.

like- when india block fuel supply, nepal try to find new supplier, when india give shelter to terrorist who terrorise nepal, nepal try to find new friend.


so its always india who are the reason behind sour relation between india and nepal. its indian insult, bullying, threat, middling.

and to stop nepal from escaping, india try even more bullying, blackmailing which even backfire more.



regarding indian joint venture, 30k jobs, 15b rev, i thought india has a bigger influence.


if nepal feel secure, smooth development,. geographically, culturally, traditionally, nepal do not need to find new partner..... most of the problems are created by india.


on the one hand, india is talking about greater interest. i.e indian security but on the another hand indians are occupied with minor interest like nothing economic, creating problem in transit.


there is really no future for india.



why dont india realize that its india with whom all the countries surrounding are threatened from, its india who is blocking business between two countries like between nepal and bangladesh- both trade,hydro transmission?   until india learn to be really great neighbour, indian future is hopeless. 


good luck




2. jange
# 1. good comments.

Nepal is 30 times smaller than India and yet it feels insecure from Nepal. It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic.

The foreign policy that the Indians learned and the methods they are using is a pale photocopy of what the British left behind 50 odd years ago. India needs to grow up and start to learn thinking on its own terms. But unfortunately it doesn't look like it is going to happen. On a global scale India has decided to hang on to the coat-tails of the USA, a declining power. Looks like India has a long way to go before it becomes a major global actor, if at all.

Petty, bullying, churlish behaviour is not something that one associates with a prospective global superpower.

Magnanimity will give India better results than petty, bullying, churlish behaviour.



3. Johann

The reports of India-China rivalry are greatly exaggerated. Yes, there is global geopolitical competition for influence and resources and India feels it doesn't get the respect it deserves, but that doesn't translate into a proxy war over Nepal. The Nepalese would like to think they are so important that the regional powers are vying for a handle on things in Kathmandu, but both New Delhi and Beijing have a convergence of interest in Nepal: they both want stability. And both are completely exasperated by the way things are falling apart in Kathmandu because of the shortsighted ambitions of the poltiical leadership there.  



4. pravasi nepali
Mr Sood; i would like to request MR sood and MEA of GOI that the scholarships provided to Nepali youths to study in India should not be limited to second strung institutes like NIT but to top colleges like IIT instead of lower ranking NIT,IIM for MBAs instead of couple of seats in FMS;incentives for CA,CS,CWA,law students in india; and more seats for MBBS students.And please don't give such seats to youths who belong with indian origin only.I have heard cases where bengali,marwari nepalese have been given cream layer of the scholarships (example: AIIMs ko scholarship for marwari instead of a nepali origin; top NITs given to them) even when they have scored poorly in tests/interviews.


5. Dipti

This waste of time for Nepali Times like paper to publish the interview of Sood like person who is thinking not like a ambassador but like a big political director of Nepal. It is misery of Nepali journalism also that we put high importance of the statement of any diplomat but don't care if he or she is out of diplomatice norms and values. Sood's behaviour in last one year has not softened the relation between India and Nepal rather it has raised anti Indian Sentiment among the majority of Nepali youth.

 



6. Harka Raj

The last sentence (comments # 1) is worth pondering over.

The Indians should know that there is no way that would the Nepalese turn against India. Even if it happens on the surface, and some out of greed, but overall, from the heart, Nepalese love everything Bharatiya way. Please take a note of that. The Chinese know about it. It is also a geopolitical compulsion in addition to cultural and religious linkages. Nepal may have displayed the symptoms of suffering from a small country  at times and reacted sharply to India's bullies or big brotherhood game.

India is the largest democracy in the world even if there are millions who go hungry everyday. India has the freedom of speech even there are millions of voiceless dalits. India is the country of gods and goddesses that millions of Nepali worship everyday. So, where is the problem?

The problem lies with the South Block whose primary job is to block everything that Nepal plans in its way to development and progress. If Nepal produced electricity, would it not benefit the drought stricken and power hungry UP, Bihar and WB? The politicians in India and Nepal would like to keep the people poor and illiterate so that they keep on voting them blindly. The Ambassadors of India to Nepal soon start behaving like a Governor as many greedy politicians que up to receive favours from India.

I think India must stop doing the business in Nepal in its old way. India or its rep must convince the populace that it really means to see the welfare of the people. To mention in an interview that India provided 80 vehicles and 50 wireless sets seems like a petty claim for a big country like India. Wow... 80 vehicles and 50 wl sets!!! How generous and how supportive!!

Anyway, my point here is that India's rep should either stick to strictly diplomatic activities or given the closeness of the two countries, it should think of all in Nepal, not just a few who are in the power or within a reach. If you look at the scholarships Indian Embassy awarded in the last few decades, Janajatis are clearly sidelined. This has happened despite the fact that the IE was in the know of things and they could have made a difference by being an even handed. IE in Nepal chose to side with the powers that be, as a result, if you survey the Janajatis, they do not see the policy of IE favourable towards them. Please take note.

 

 

 



7. Sarath G
"India would like to see stability return in Nepal"..? Oh really? Nepal would like to see India stop being an ignorant bully in the neighbourhood. You were colonised by the West, I understand you are bitter and just plain angry. But Nepal would like to see India stop annoying us with their attitude problem that's mainly got to do with the inferiority complex with China. Can you please do that for us?  

8. Gorkhe
Mr. Dixit- Will you please tell us how much money does this person provide to  the Nepali times? How you run your publication, it would be nice if you could disclose your financial statements, and let me audit the financial statments. Then I will show your clear faces of both of you.





9. Gorkhe
Mr. Dixit- Will you please tell us how much money does this person provide to  the Nepali times? How you run your publication, it would be nice if you could disclose your financial statements, and let me audit the financial statments. Then I will show your clear faces of both of you.





10. jange
India's "security concerns" are more accurately described as India's inferiority complex.


11. SDhakal
Actually Jange your comments and those by others above you show the inferiority complex of us Nepalese. We mess up our country and cannot be  united and we complain that India is taking advantage of us all. We suffer from a version of the Stockholm Syndrome.


12. Mahesh

"INdia would like to see stability return" Oh really?? From 1950, all Indian has done in Nepal  is try to make it unstable and dependant. And Mr Sood is just moving around and ranting how India is supporting Nepal and even manages to count the number of vehicles donated. He must have forgotten how our India controlled leaders donated Mahakali, Kosi , Gandaki...Mahendra donating Kalapani...and our youths dying fighting for India in thier border. Being 30 times smaller, I see our donations weighing more than Indias' and moreover, if India wants stability in Nepal, why is it sponsoring the terai terrorist outfits? 

"6 million Nepalese are working in India" , where did you find this data, or it just came in your mind? In last 5 years more than 2 million Indian nationals have been given Nepali citizenship and almost 0.7 million Indians are working in Nepal too(you know our size differnce, dont ya?).

You turn up all of a sudden in the PMs office in sandals and tshirts breaching even the minimum diplomatic norms..(well that must be how you try to prove that you are stronger)and why are you encroaching our land, why are your SSBs terrorizing us...first you sponsored the systematic killing of almost 16000 Nepalese by sheltering Maoists leaders in Delhi and now the terai outfits, do you really thing we nepalese are dumb. Every nationalistic Nepali leader always had a suspicious death...the terror comes right from India, do you have a friend left in south Asia? When you close your embassy and close our border, Nepal will definately be stable.....a true enemy is better than a fake friend.



13. Gorkhe
 

Mr Sood:
According to you
our role as Nepal's key partner in its economic development". What your role has done for Nepal is control, control, control. Nothing more than that. I have visited your country few times. I know your business culture, I know your business practice. 

Your role has done more damage to the relationship between the people of two great nations. I honestly have to admit, we Nepalis are fool to let you do what you are doing in Nepal. Let me become A leader, then I will show you, your gate.  
 your role is economy development has no significant impacts, Nepalis are earning themselves in your country with hard work, and honesty and loyal that's why you let in your national Army to join Nepalis, not because we are poor.

I prefer to have Nepalis' role in economy development, as well as political development without your roles.  Please you stop visiting our worthless leaders, I know its not your fault, but its our weakness to let you have access to the system. It has to be stopped from Nepali side, we will stop you. It is just  a matter of time.



14. Gorkhe
Dixit- Why you cheer picks which comment to publish, which is not to?



15. Battisputali
It's actually #3 that is the most sensible comment. Money quote:-

"The Nepalese would like to think they are so important that the regional powers are vying for a handle on things in Kathmandu, but both New Delhi and Beijing have a convergence of interest in Nepal: they both want stability."


16. K. K. Sharma
Naturally India now and only now want to see stability in Nepal.

 It was primarliy India that had destablised Nepal. Having  enhanced their hegemony and regained what they had lost since 1960 and gained even more since 2006, now it is stability that India wants in order  to consolidate its gains and ward off the growing Chinese interest in Nepal..


17. Budabaaje

In response to #3:

"...both (India and China) are completely exasperated by the way things are falling apart in Kathmandu because of the shortsighted ambitions of the poltiical leadership there. " 

Right. Constitutional monarchy under 1990 system was better for India, China and Nepal.

NT, ask Mr. Sood why his country went to the extent it did to destroy the 1990 Constitution. Ask him why his country supported and nurtured the Maoists. Ask him why their secret service provided flats for Baburam and Prachanda in Delhi? etc etc etc. Ask the hard questions that really matter.



18. koingress

I love how Congress has elected a dynamic, young and vibrant leader like Sushil Koirala to bring the party back to power. The picture of Sushil hospitalised is a perfect image for the state of Nepali Congress.

I think there is a general rule that only Koirala's can run the (Koi)ngress party. I propose Manisha Koirala for party President when Sushil is dead in a matter of minutes, days, months. Atleast we will have a curvier, sexier, lots a cleavage PM that the rest of the world can envy. Seriously Manisha could do a better job for Koingress and for Nepal. She can have her bollywood friends over doing jhatkas and improve the entertainment value of Nepali politics.

 



19. sudhir
I am indian citizen from Maharashtra, may be remote area for all nepali freinds, but i must tell that i am in full agreement with all the above comments and i feel that indian govt must change policies towards small nation like nepal and they should be given freedom to take their own decisions. Its small but beautiful nation with beautiful people. and its primarily indian responcibility as largest democracy in the world that let nepali enjoy the fundametntal right of taking their own decisions. nepal is culturally attached to india. Rakesh sood our ambassdor in nepal should act nicely there without hurting the nepali people, or indian govt should call him back before situation worsens further. India should treat nepal not like younger brother but they shud be treated like friend on equality basis. if india loose nepal its not at good situation for india. hope rakhesh jee wud read this comment and make some positive changes in the policies with immediate effect.



20. DG
Start fourth track diplomacy between Nepal and India by only involving the youths of both the countries who can think freely without  past baggage and  bias.. ;without intoxication of the royal jelly.( of duplicity).
Let them sort out the essentials  and non-essentials for both the countries. and the common interests of both.
Postpone for the present  the issues in which there are gross  disagreements.
Create a mechanism to address any problem that comes across and to solve them promptly. Don't go to far and catch no fish . Throw your net nearby and start catching some fish.



21. alka
Why is there such bitterness from Nepali side towards India. It is not India's fault what happened or happens in Nepal. It is the problem related to Nepali leadership-past and present. Quit blaming India for your problems. There were close ties between India and Nepal and people of Nepali origin still dominate North East Indian regions. Nepal and India got a lot of freebies and concessions from each other just the way 2 brothers growing in the same family do. Now Nepal has changed and it's views are different just like when 2 brothers separate. The way their leadership changed was a shock to whole world.India was affected most due to close religious and cultural connections between people.Please help your nation grow by your own contribution instead of blaming others.Give Indians time to adjust to your new reality.

22. Prakash Rai
First India created instability in Nepal by inciting the Maoist to rebel by giving them shelter and financial assistance in India. Now His Excellency wants to see stability in Nepal. What an irony. The fact of the matter is that India never wanted and wants to witness stability in Nepal. We are India locked and India wants us to be dependent on them forever. That is the bare fact. The state of affairs of Nepal should be decided by Nepalese and not any alien element.

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