05/20/2014, 00.00
NEPAL - INDIA
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Nepal hails Modi's victory, pledges no impact on religious freedom at home

by Christopher Sharma
According to local authorities, the BJP's victory will improve relations between Kathmandu and New Delhi. Although India's winning Bharatiya Janata Party is a Hindu nationalist party, Nepal's foreign minister reiterates that it will not lead to any favouritism in the Himalayan nation. Religious minorities have no reason to be afraid.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The BJP's victory will improve relations between India and Nepal and will have no impact on any Nepali religious group, said government officials in Kathmandu following the electoral triumph of Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader, Narendra Modi.

Nepali President Eam Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, and former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai personally phoned Modi to congratulate him.

"Nepal is an old & deeply valued friend. We are committed to strengthening our relations with Nepal in various spheres," Modi wrote on Twitter, the campaign's dominant social media.

By contrast, Narendra Modi's victory has sparked fears among India's religious minorities (especially Muslims and Christians). Over the years, Hindu fundamentalists have targeted non-Hindus.

Within the Sangh Parivar (Hindu nationalist) movement, groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a fascist-style paramilitary to which Modi once belonged, gravitate around the BJP.

Modi himself has been accused in connection with the Hindu-Muslim massacres in Gujarat in 2002.

Nepal became a secular state in 2006 after centuries under an absolute Hindu monarchy. Only recently have religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, been able to build places of worship and celebrate their religious functions in public.

Hinduism is still the majority religion, practiced by 81.3 per cent of the population. Buddhists represent the largest minority (9 per cent), followed by Muslims (4.4 per cent) and Christians (1.4 per cent).

Speaking about what impact Modi's reportedly pro-Hindu views might have on Nepalis, Maghendra Pandey, Nepal's foreign minister was guarded.

"Nepal has its own policy towards all religions," he explained. "We shall entertain no foreign intervention. Modi knows this and that is why I do not believe the BJP government will favour one group and ignore the rights of another."

"Our country is secular," the minister added, "and all religions have equal rights. Hindus have no reason to be excited [about Modi's victory], nor do religious minorities have reason to be afraid. Everyone is free to practice their faith in accordance with the laws."

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