South Asia

'Impartial and Neutral' Nepal Ready to 'Play Role of Mediator' Between India and Pak

While offering to mediate, highly placed government sources said that “direct talks” would be a better solution.

Kathmandu: Nepal is ready to “play the role of meditator” and be “instrumental” in bringing India and Pakistan to the table for talks, Nepali government sources said on Saturday, but added that “direct talks” were a better solution.

“Dialogues are a must, dialogues are necessary,” high-placed sources told a visiting group of Indian journalists in Kathmandu over the continuing estrangement between India and Pakistan. “If necessary, we can play the role of mediator, as we are friendly, independent and peace-loving. In the region, we are neutral, impartial and we love truth and facts.”

The Nepali government sources added that while Nepal is ready to play a role, it would be better for both countries to talk directly. “We can be instrumental, but a better solution would be to develop direct contacts.”

All dialogue mechanisms between India and Pakistan have stalled for the past couple of years after New Delhi refused to hold talks, saying Pakistan must first dismantle cross-border terror infrastructure.

The US President Donald Trump has also repeatedly offered to be a go-between between the two countries, especially in the case of settling the Kashmir issue. While Pakistan has accepted Trump’s offer, India has not budged on its long-standing opposition to any third-party intervention.

Also Read: If India Can Resolve Disputes With Other Neighbours, Why Not Us: Nepali Foreign Minister

India-Pakistan differences have also led to the SAARC process being stalled, as no summit has been held since 2014. Pakistan was scheduled to take over as SAARC chair from Nepal in 2015 at the annual summit, but India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan withdrew from the meeting over Islamabad’s support for cross-border terrorism.

Nepal government sources said terrorism of all forms had to be confronted, but also asserted that “there was no link between SAARC and terrorism”.

“SAARC is not dead… Only the summit has still not been held,” they said, adding that an alternative mechanism could be found to revive the grouping.

On Friday, Nepal foreign minister Pradeep K. Gyawali said that it would be a “fantastic idea” if all the SAARC leaders could attend the first edition of the permanent dialogue forum, Sagarmatha Sambaad, in Kathmandu in April.

Nepali government sources noted that the other sub-regional grouping, BIMSTEC, cannot be a substitute for SAARC. “I don’t think so,” they stated, when asked whether the former could be a replacement. New Delhi has been championing sub-regional groups like BIMSTEC and BBIN as an alternative to SAARC.

Recently, when the National Register of Citizens process was completed in India’s Assam state, around one lakh Gorkhas, a Nepalese-origin community, were excluded from the list. It is learnt that some of the community organisations had contacted members of the Nepalese leadership for support in getting their grievances addressed.

However, Nepali government sources stated that they were assured by statements from Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh and home minister Amit Shah that no Nepalese-speaking person will suffer under the proposed NRC exercise.

Nepalese officials point out that most Nepalese speaking people are “local” to India, as they are native to the territory that had been ceded from the Himalayan state in colonial times.

In Assam, which had never been under Nepali sovereignty, Nepalese language speakers have settled there “centuries ago”. “If there is are any problems, we can talk and resolve,” the sources said.

But, there should not be “any confusion that Nepalese speaking people are not Indian”, sources stated. “It is an issue of India and Indian people have to resolve this matter”.