Nepal today said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Neighbourhood First' policy has sparked great optimism, but it would like to see concrete steps taken in the form of trade, investment, and road and rail connectivity. Nepal's Minister of Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahant also emphasised on addressing the "root cause" behind the "limited growth" of SAARC so as to ensure better and effective regional integration. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi sparked great optimism when he articulated the vision of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas (together with all development for all) and his neighbourhood first policy," he said at the Raisina Dialogue 2017. "We would like to see this vision translate into concrete deliverables in the form of trade, investment, connectivity with highways and railways and (power) transmission infrastructure," he said. When asked about the joint military exercise between Nepal and China, Mahant downplayed the development saying it's a "small" training. "People are talking as if we are doing any huge exercise. It's nothing like that. We have so many engagements in India in terms of security cooperation and other things. When small training takes place, it should not (be seen) as if a strange thing is happening," he said, talking to reporters, later on. He said private players in India should not feel Nepal is still what it was during insurgency days.
The situation in the country has changed and it's a different country now, he said.
Highlighting the problems facing South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, he said, "Evolution of SAARC process has been painfully slow to achieve regional integration and we must address the root causes of the problem to materialise the noble intention of regional integration and prosperity."
To address the electricity issues in Nepal, he said his country is working with India on open market access for power grid at bilateral and sub-regional level.
Besides, Mahant said, the two countries are also working in the sub-regional framework of Bangladesh Bhutan India and Nepal (BBIN) initiative to achieve greater cross-border connectivity in vital sector of trade.
He said, Nepal is inspired by the phenomenal progress India is making in fields from science and Technology to economic growth.
"How we can rise with our neighbour's rise is our key interest. We are impressed by some bold initiatives India has taken under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership to ensure digital and financial access to the poor and fight against corruption," Mahant added.
(Reopens DES 77) Lauding India for its continued support in its "quest" for peace and democracy, Mahant said Nepal is making efforts to accommodate everyone within constitutional framework by addressing their "legitimate" concerns. Speaking in the same session, ex-Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai said the way the "war on terror" is being conducted, it is destroying extremism neither in his country nor in the region despite massive sacrifices in terms of lives and resources. He, however, appreciated the role of the international community, including India, for helping rebuild Afghanistan. Recalling his interaction with President Vladimir Putin, Karzai said he was told that despite Russia's differences with the US, the two countries "could see eye to eye" in Afghanistan. Union Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar said the United Nations has not been able to decide on the definition of terrorism for the past two decades. "The nations that have lived through conventional challenges are still not being able to grapple with problems they cannot fully understand... Over 20 years, the UN has not been able to find definition for terrorism... Something which actually seeks to destroy the architecture of international stability," Akbar said. He also rued that the problem with the current discourse is that "Islam is being blamed with sins of Muslims".