The Indian media and intelligentsia are accusing Nepal of tilting towards China.
Both our neighbours are equally important for us. We are not tilting more or less in any direction. We don’t compare our relationship with either of them. Neither of our neighbours should forget that Nepal has neighbours on both sides, and ask us to deal only with one of them.
There is lot of talk about Nepal falling into the Chinese debt trap.
I keep reminding people that in the 1990s and 2000s many Latin American countries nearly went bankrupt and had to be bailed out. It was not called a ‘debt trap’, none of them had loans from China. Greece still has not been able to come out of its economic crisis, and I don’t think they are in trouble because they had Chinese investments. These accusations are not based on an objective economic analysis, but a negative attitude towards the rise of China and its political system. Besides, Nepal has the ability to decide what is in its national interest and what is not. If it is in the national interest we can take not just aid, but also loans. But if it is not in our interest, we will not even take assistance.
And China seems to be suspicious of Nepal’s involvement in the Indo-Pacific Alliance. Can a Nepal that is already a member of the BRI risk being involved in the Indo-Pacific?
The suspicions about the Indo-Pacific is a storm in a tea cup. Our Chinese friends are not really worried, they are sure that Nepal will not allow anti-Chinese activities. The first official visit by a Nepali foreign minister to Washington recently, and the first American visit at the level of the foreign minister to Nepal have added a new milestone to Nepal-US relations. The Japanese foreign minister visited Nepal after many years, we have also deepened our relations with India, the EU and other development partners. Nepal has increased its involvement in the international arena. The Prime Minister’s recent Europe visit has sent the message that Nepal is no longer what it used to be in South Asia, it has spread its wings. It could be that some cannot digest Nepal’s higher international engagement and are uneasy about it. There is no question of Nepal ever joining any strategic alliance. We look at our own national interest, and we also try to make sure that our decisions and involvement does not hurt the interests of our neighbours, development partners or other friendly countries.
What are the main achievements during your tenure?
During the conflict, Nepal’s economic development suffered a setback, it affected our foreign policy and we became an arena for proxies. Now, with the end of the political transition and political stability, we are fixing our mistakes and moving ahead. Nepal used to be a back-bencher in the international fora. Now, we are being seen and heard. The Prime Minister’s participation at Davos, his one-on-one meeting with G-20 leaders sent the message that Nepal should now be heard on the world stage. Recently, the head of the IFC said that Nepal was a ‘rising star’, so that must carry some weight.
We have also restored our relations with our neighbours, after overcoming difficult times. Others have now realised that they must take Nepal along. Despite obstacles, we hosted the BIMSTEC Summit and the Colombo Process Ministerial Conference in Kathmandu. I would consider the past year quite successful.
Interview by Hari Prakash Chand and Binu Pokhrel
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