NEW DELHI: In the first interview of 2021, Nepal’s envoy to India Nilamber Acharya has said that India and Nepal have ‘enormous goodwill’ and ‘close friendship at a high political level’. Speaking exclusively to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Acharya said, foreign minister of Nepal will visit India for the joint commission meet, a visit he said, “will give impetus for further development of our extensive relations.”
One of the key focus during the visit will be on COVID vaccine even as India has given approval to two vaccines over the weekend. The Nepali envoy during his interview congratulated “India and its scientists” for their “achievements leading to the production of affordable vaccines suitable to our countries.” The visit by Nepal FM Pradeep Gyawali will be the first such high profile visit from Kathmandu to India in over a year. Last year, a number of high-level visits from New Delhi to Nepal happened as both sides showed the intent to firm up ties.
WION: How do you see India-Nepal ties?
Nilamber Acharya: India-Nepal ties are historical, time-tested, exemplary, and ever-growing. The very fabric of our relationship is finely weaved through the people to people exchanges and cross-border social and cultural ties. There are enormous goodwill and close friendship at a high political level. We are very close neighbors and friends with a common way of life. We share many values from spiritual to political, civilizational to religious, ancient to modern. We have benefitted from our comprehensive cooperation and easy access to each other’s country thanks to open borders and cultural affinity. There have been some differences and issues to be resolved. As good friends we agree to sort out and resolve them through dialogue. We don’t allow differences in some questions to impact other areas of our extensive cooperation. We are moving ahead.
WION: How are India and Nepal engaging on COVID vaccine?
Nilamber Acharya: Our cooperation against Covid-19 has been beneficial for us. It will grow. I congratulate India and its scientists for their achievements leading to the production of affordable vaccines suitable to our countries. We have received India’s assurances and expect the early availability of vaccines produced in India to meet the needs of Nepal.
WION: How do you see India’s development partnership with Nepal?
Nilamber Acharya: India is a permanent development partner for Nepal. From highways to hydropower, cross-border railways, inland container depots (ICDs), integrated check posts (ICPs) to cross-border transmission lines; India has always remained the partner for Nepal’s development. India is Nepal’s largest trading partner, one of the largest investors, and the largest source country for inbound tourists. Cross-border petroleum pipeline and power trade arrangements have become the hallmarks of strategic partnership in the energy trade. India is the major transit route for Nepal’s trade overseas trade through Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam ports. We’ll see more cooperation in the days to come. The Year 2021 is expected to be a good productive year for our friendly relations.
WION: Can we see a high-level engagement from Nepal side, as there have been a number of visits from India has happened?
Nilamber Acharya: Good to see that high-level visits have resumed after an interval due to some difficulties of Covid time and others. Even during these days, there were high-level contacts. For instance, Independence Day phone conversation between the two prime ministers. Recently, Foreign Secretary of India Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Nepal. Just before him, Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane visited Nepal to receive the honorary rank of General of Nepal Army. In the last week of December, a high-powered delegation led by the power secretary of Nepal visited India. Now we are working on the visit of the Foreign Minister of Nepal and foreign minister-level Joint Commission meeting in India. This visit will give impetus for further development of our extensive relations. We have good prospects and the overall environment is improving. We have just ushered in the year 2021, the days ahead will unfold the details about the level of exchanges and visits. We are optimistic.