- The Washington Times - Friday, May 29, 2009

Robert Kittel of United Press International and Yuichi Beniya, a correspondent with the Japanese daily Sekai Nippo, interviewed Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal in Katmandu on Tuesday. Here are excerpts of the interview:

Question: You have outlined your government’s priorities as writing the new constitution and bringing the peace process to its natural conclusion. However, your government has the largest number of partners of any government in Nepali history, 22 parties, and at the same time it has the strongest opposition any government has ever faced. How will you manage your government?

Answer: To keep the 22 parties intact is really a challenging task. So I will have to work hard to keep communication with all my colleagues and partners, respect their views and involve them in the process.

So now the CPN-Maoists are in the opposition, their role is critical, crucial and important. They are sending the message that they will play a constructive role. They will not detour from the path of constitution writing, the peace process and the advancement of the society. If they are really committed for these three missions, then there is the scope of working together.

We have seen many ups and downs. We have faced many hardships, but we survived. We have brought a tremendous change, a historical change, due to the unity, understanding and cooperation among the parties.

Q: On Saturday, a Catholic church was bombed and you are very concerned. How will your government ensure religious harmony?

A: Setting off a blast inside a church disturbed me, and I was grieved by the message of the death of two people and many more people that were injured. The cowardly act by certain groups of people is to be condemned by all people. My government will find out those culprits and will punish them.

I have instructed officials to increase security for churches. At the same time, if there is the danger to other religious sects, all these sensitive targeted areas should be protected by the state. The government will do its best to protect different religions and protect the rights of the people to their faith.

Q: Nepal is bordered by two very large countries [India and China] and both naturally have an interest in Nepal. How will you ensure national sovereignty, integrity and independence of this nation, vis-a-vis these two influential powers?

A: Nepal is a yam between two big stones. This is the reality. We cannot change the geography, so we have to live together. We have to balance our own interests; we have to balance our own relationships between both neighbors. Neither can we side with one side, nor can we side with the other side. We want to keep the interest of the Nepali nation in our mind; that should be our center.

We should not give any space to others to impose on our internal affairs or interfere in our own internal matters. We respect others; it means we also want to be respected by others.

Q: Using a Hindu concept, it seems like the peace process is being reborn, given a second life. Will you invite the international community, specifically the United Nations, to be part of this rebirth or will Nepal now fully own the peace process?

A: You know, the peace process is a native initiative, a Nepali initiative. It is not an international initiative. We ourselves have started the process and we ourselves will conclude the process. So far as the good wishes from outsiders are concerned, the international community, even cooperation from the world community, is most welcome.

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