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Nepal wants to become a bridge between India and China and contribute towards maintaining peace and stability in the entire South Asia region, Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister Gopal Man Shrestha has said amidst Beijing's efforts to step up its influence in the country. Shrestha, whose Nepali Congress party won most of the seats in a Madhesi-dominated province during the just concluded local polls in the country, expressed hope that his party would become the largest party in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections. The elections for provinces and the federal assembly or Parliament will be held as per schedule, said Shrestha, who is also the education minister of the country. "The government is making all preparations for the upcoming provincial election on November 26 and Parliamentary elections on December 5," Shrestha told PTI. Responding to a question, he said Nepal wanted to play the role of a bridge between two Asian giants India and China. "We will maintain good neighbourly relations with both the countries," said Shrestha. "Being a bridge between the two neighbouring countries Nepal wants to contribute towards maintaining peace and stability in the entire South Asia region," Shrestha said. He said Nepal was is committed to pursuing non-aligned foreign policy while dealing with the neighbours. The remarks came amid China's efforts to increase its presence in the Himalayan country. China last year agreed to consider building a railway into Nepal and to start a feasibility study for a free trade agreement with landlocked Nepal, which has been trying to lessen its dependence on India. Nepal also signed up to President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road initiative which is opposed by India as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Shrestha said economic prosperity will be the main agenda of the ruling Nepali Congress during the provincial and Parliamentary level elections. "Now with the successful implementation of the Constitution, that was framed two year's ago, the political transition has concluded, and now we will focus our attention to the economic agenda of the country," he said. Commenting on the performance of the Nepali Congress in the local elections, he said: "Our performance was good in province No 2 and 4 out of seven provinces, though we could not perform up to the expectations". "Our effort will be to form a stable government at the centre," he said. The next government is most likely to be a coalition one, he opined adding "as per the present circumstances and the constitutional provision, there is less likelihood of forming a majority government by any political party after the elections." He invited more foreign investment in Nepal, saying the government is committed to creating safe and conducive environment for investors. He said the participation of Madhesi parties in the local election has helped in the implementing the new Constitution." "We have amended the Constitution to fulfil some of the major demands raised by the Madhesi parties and we will gradually address the other demands raised by them," he said. "We will unitedly move ahead by consolidating the party in the upcoming elections so that Nepali Congress will emerge victorious in all the seven provinces," he said. Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin, launched a prolonged agitation between September 2015 and February last year against the implementation of the new Constitution which they felt marginalised the Terai community.
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