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Achieved breakthrough after having three one-on-one meetings with Modi: PM Dahal (interview)


 |  Kathmandu

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who is on a four-day official visit to India, has said that there has been a 'breakthrough' in Nepal-India relations after holding three one-on-one meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Prachanda and Modi had a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of bilateral talks between Nepal and India on Thursday.

"After meeting alone with Modi three times, the situation that was going to deteriorate became much better," Prime Minister Prachanda told Nepali mediapersons at Hotel Maurya on Friday morning.

Prachanda revealed that it was during that 'one-on-one' talk with Modi that India agreed to buy 10,000 megawatts of hydropower from Nepal.

"That is the breakthrough for Nepal," said Prachanda.

On Friday, the third day of his visit to India, before flying to Ujjain, the religious city of Madhya Pradesh from Delhi, Prime Minister Prachanda presented himself in a cheerful mood at the 'Obama Suite' of Hotel ICT Maurya.

Prachanda: This is my fourth 'official' visit to India. Earlier visits were rather 'state visits'. But this time the Indian media has also given importance to my visit. This had not happened in any previous Prime Minister's visits. It was clearly seen that a little more importance was given this time.

The issue we emphasized with India from the beginning was the trade in hydropower. The only resource that Nepal has is hydropower. If we can market it properly, we can balance the trade deficit with India and make our country prosperous. So I had the idea of how to do long-term electricity trade with India. This was the problem for us and now there is a 'breakthrough' in it. It is as if there is a tripartite agreement between Bangladesh, India and Nepal on energy trade. This is also a very big thing. Air route clearance was a bit big and important for us. It was agreed to give a 'low altitude' route from Nepalgunj, but we are told that the 'high altitude' route and from Mahendranagar is the best. They have said that they are 'positive'. Therefore, even though it is small, it is a 'breakthrough'.

The border issue was another of our main concerns. In the meeting with Prime Minister Modi yesterday, he said he would take it seriously and solve it. In the joint press meet, he also said that the border issue would be resolved.

Modi had never said that he would solve the border problem by himself. Therefore, I think this is another 'breakthrough' in this visit. Not only that, issues such as petroleum pipelines, integrated check posts (ICP), railways were agreed upon. All these are positive achievements. It will help increase the economic activity of Nepal. From yesterday morning, the atmosphere gradually became positive. The understanding and consensus reached at Hyderabad House made the visit a success. I don't think it's good to say too much from my mouth right now. But the result is pleasant. A very good thing has begun. But it doesn't mean that everything will happen now. But this visit marked the beginning of something much bigger.

In his address, Modi said, 'Our relationship is going from hit to super-hit'. In particular, what was agreed upon in that one-on-one meeting?
I presented the border problem in a positive way trying to convince him to solve it at once. I felt that Modi was becoming a bit more positive about my point that Nepal-India relations cannot move forward without this. Another is water resources and electricity business. A little more focus of Modi was that it should go through clean energy. Maybe he said that because it is the best option in terms of energy usage. Yesterday (Thursday) alone, I had three separate meetings with Modi. At first 25 minutes and later twice for 5-7 minutes, we talked three times for 5-7 minutes each. I will not put everything here now. Because of those meetings, the environment became conducive. I can see that he is confident that our relationship will go from hit to super-hit and touch the height of the Himalayas through these conversations.

There is nothing there (in Nepal) without a 'breakthrough' in Delhi to keep economic activities running and to advance Nepal's prosperity. See how much effort went into creating this environment. At one point, I thought that the environment had deteriorated. You only saw the pressure on my face in the embassy (laughs). I see more role of Modi in creating this environment.

You visited India four times as Prime Minister. Is this visit more productive than others?
Looking at the current visit in many ways, I call it a 'breakthrough'. Nepali's desire for long-term electricity trade has been fulfilled this time. This visit has opened the door to trade electricity between Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Although we did not make it as expected regarding air route permit, at least the process has started. We have always said that the border issue should be resolved. Now India also said this. These are things that have far-reaching importance in the economic and political spectrum of Nepal. Therefore, I consider this visit as historic for me.

Earlier you talked about hydrogen energy. Does it have any link Nepal-India relation?
Clean energy is very important for that. Since we have an abundance of clean energy and need to convert it into hydrogen energy, I feel that both countries want to cooperate on it.

We have said that we will sell 10,000 megawatts of electricity to India in 10 years. Are we able to generate that much electricity?
The reason why international companies are afraid to invest in hydro in Nepal is because there is no guarantee of electricity export. There is no market where all products are consumed in Nepal. India was not ready to take it. Therefore, the investment environment was not being created. With yesterday's announcement, that fear has disappeared. Now a large number of investors come enthusiastically to invest in hydro in Nepal. In that sense, its importance seems to be strategic. We already have 3,700 products. 10,000 megawatts can be produced if the pipeline projects are advanced.

Again, it does not mean that all 10,000 megawatts wil be sold to India. I believe that consumption should be increased within the country as much as possible. Self-consumption is preferred over selling.

India has been maintaining a stance of not buying electricity produced by China's investment. Was there any discussion with Modi on this matter?
You know that India has refused to buy Tamakoshi's electricity. What I have said about this is that if a company of any country receives any project from the global tender, it is not compatible at all. That door has been opened since yesterday. When it comes to investing, it is immediately understood that Delhi has 'reservation'. But it is not reasonable to ask to take the electricity produced from the global tender and it is not acceptable.

What's about the border issue?
Kalapani has also been discussed in the Indian media. It is written that it should be resolved. As we discussed, we talked about internal options. There is also a Bangladesh option. Bangladesh and India also had problems for a long time but they resolved them. One could be that model. On the other hand, Nepal has been raising the issue that we need a direct route to Bangladesh. That is our need and also our desire. There may be a solution if it can be managed somewhere. Experts in Nepal have said that even if it is possible to get it, that is also possible. Or there may be other options. Alternatives to Kalapani have started to be considered from yesterday. Starting to think about alternatives is the breakthrough. That is why Modi said that he should solve this himself.

Modi is also of the view that if this border issue lingers, Nepal-India relations will never improve. If the issues of Lipulek and Kalapani, are resolved, there will be other economic and cultural relations between us. A positive, constructive debate about boundaries started since yesterday.

What’s about EPG report? Is it a forgotten issue, now?  
EPG is a matter that is taken seriously by all of us in Nepal, but now we should move forward instead of stalling all the work by arguing about this matter. It can be raised after creating an environment. There is no talk of EPG now. We don't want to spoil the atmosphere. Why make things worse? 

Was there any discussion on the Pancheshwar Multiurpose Project?
When it comes to Pancheshwar, the water used in Lower Sharada was the main issue. Lower Sharada is nowhere mentioned in the Mahakali Treaty. We were troubled by the existing use of water in Lower Sharada. That is why Pancheshwar did not feature in the discussion. At present, we will skip all these things and first prepare the DPR in line with the Mahakali Treaty. Then, this project will be taken forward in a new way.

You met the Chinese leader in Kathmandu before arriving in India ...
Meeting the Chinese leader before coming to India is just a coincidence. By and large, the India visit has become a success. Let's make it better.

Was it also the coincidence to certify the Citizenship Bill on the same day you left for India?
I had long ago said that the President should certify the citizenship. The Citizenship Bill was ratified on the same day that I came to India. Many a time I wished that the Citizenship Bill would be in place earlier that it should not be linked to my visit to India. But the President authenticated it that day which has not link with my India visit. 

Was there talk about Gurkha recruitment?
There has been indirect talk about Gurkha recruitment, I will tell you later.


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