KATHMANDU, MAY 19 – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday summoned Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad over a controversial political statement made by SD Mehta, the Consulate General of India in Birgunj. This is the first time the government summoned an Indian diplomat after 2006.
In a cocktail party at Hotel Vishuwa in Birgunj on Wednesday evening, Mehta tried persuading leaders of the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Nepal representing Parsa and Bara districts to take to the streets for the sake of Madhes and suggested them to kick up “a storm in the Madhes before May 27”.
Foreign Secretary Durga Bhattarai summoned the Indian envoy at his chamber and sought clarification over Mehta’s controversial statement. Prasad, along with Deputy Chief of Mission at the Indian Embassy Joy Deep Majumdar, was present during the call.
“Upon instructions, Foreign Secretary Bhattarai summoned Indian envoy Prasad and expressed serious concerns and reservations over the statement made by the Indian diplomat. We also made clear that those controversial remarks and statements would harm the century-long warm relations between Nepal and India,” said MoFA Spokesperson Arjun Bahadur Thapa.
During the meeting, Bhattarai, Thapa and Division Head, South Asia, Narayan Dev Panta were present from the Nepali side.
“The statement also undermined Nepal’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and would pose a serious threat to Nepal’s social harmony,” the foreign secretary told the Indian diplomats. “The ill-timed statement could worsen the situation.”
MoFA officials hoped the Indian side would also investigate the matter and act accordingly, the foreign secretary said. The Nepali side further informed the Indian side that it will also look into the statement and might issue a Persona Non Grata (PNG) if the statements attributed to him were established.
Sources told the Post that MoFA is conducting a probe in coordination with its own Birgunj-based Contact Office and the Ministry of Home Affairs and through the Chief District Officer of Parsa district.
Indian Ambassador Prasad claimed that their initial findings suggested that the news reports were misleading and incorrect. “We want to see Nepal a prosperous country and we have been saying time and again that Nepal’s twin tasks, peace and constitution drafting processes, are totally Nepal-led.”
The Indian envoy told the foreign secretary that he had already sought a clarification from Mehta and would take action against him if found guilty.
The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu claimed that “media reports attributing certain remarks to an official in the Consulate General of India, Birgunj, are misleading and factually incorrect.”
Officials in New Delhi refuted the reports. “The media reports are misleading and factually incorrect. Such attributions seek to detract from the friendly relations between India and Nepal,” said Spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin. “India remains committed to supporting the constitution making process for the establishment of a stable, democratic and prosperous Nepal.”
Indian sources told the Post that Mehata has already completed his tenure and is about to return to Delhi.
Leaders, including KC Tyagi, Principal General Secretary of the Janata Dal United, have termed the incident as unfortunate. “If the media reports are correct, no Indian diplomat should have made such remarks. Nepal is a sovereign nation and it is the prerogative of the forces there to decide what to do,” he said.
Socialist leader Vijaya Pratap said such remarks will not affect Indo-Nepal relationship as its “foundation is too strong.”
Top parties seek clarification
Meanwhile, the three major political parties seriously objected to Mehta’s statement. They said his opinions were interference in Nepal´s internal affairs and went against diplomatic norms.
Following a meeting in Baluwatar on Friday, the UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML strongly condemned Mehta’s act. They urged the government to ask New Delhi to recall the diplomat in question.
Deputy Prime Minister and Maoist Vice Chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha said the Foreign Ministry will take steps to draw the attention of the Indian government to Mehta’s statement.
Dahal seeks clarification from Prasad
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal also sought India’s position on the controversial statement made by Mehta.
“Our chairman invited the Indian envoy to his residence and asked why an Indian diplomat was so intrusive about Nepal’s internal matters. Chairman Dahal sought clarification over the issue from the ambassador,” an aide to Dahal, Shiva Khakurel, said.
In response, Prasad said he will seek details about the remarks and will get back to Dahal, according to Khakurel.
UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal also condemned the statement and asked the government to send the diplomat back. “Some of his statements were provocative and could lead to further tension in Nepal. Our party deplores such a statement,” Khanal said in a statement.Post Report