Nepal and India will review bilateral ties—and a laundry list of pending issuesAfter months of delay, officials from Nepal and India will finally review bilateral ties from the Eminent Persons’ Group report to India-funded projects in Nepal as Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale arrives in Kathmandu on Thursday.
After months of delay, officials from Nepal and India will finally review bilateral ties from the Eminent Persons’ Group report to India-funded projects in Nepal as Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale arrives in Kathmandu on Thursday.
The fifth meeting of the Joint Commission at foreign ministers’ level in Kathmandu, which was initially proposed for February, could not take place at the time as Sushma Swaraj, India’s external affairs ministers, was occupied with election campaigns. Officials from both the countries are expecting to use Gokhale’s visit to review and assess the past commitments that were made during the visits of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to India and two return visits of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal last year.
“As India is gearing up for general elections, the meeting of the Joint Commission at foreign ministers’ level was postponed. That’s why a meeting at the foreign secretary level is taking place to ensure smooth execution of old and new agreements and understandings reached with India,” Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali told the Post.
During former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to New Delhi in 2016, Nepal and India had set up Nepal-India Oversight Mechanism headed by the foreign secretary from the Nepali side and the Indian ambassador to Nepal from India to review the status of the India-funded projects in Nepal and place necessary instructions to the officials concerned to remove the bottlenecks.
Later, new agreements were signed during Oli’s visit to India, and the two leaders reached an understanding to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues during the Indian prime minister’s visit to Kathmandu in May 2018.
Since then, the two foreign secretaries held regular video conferencing to resolve the dispute in the India-funded projects.
According to Gyawali, some projects and bilateral issues have been resolved or are making good progress and some are facing some bottlenecks.
“The meeting will review those projects that are facing the bottlenecks and discuss ways to remove those bottlenecks in order to expedite them,” he added.
One of the other major issues will be accepting the much-awaited report of EPG, that the Indian side is reluctant to sign off due to some reservations.
Nepali officials said they will once again request the Indian side to accept the report at the earliest as it has triggered huge attention and concerns from various quarters in Nepal.
Other issues and agendas on the table during the meeting are cross-border rail projects, construction of the Integrated Check Posts, transmission lines, Upper Karnali hydro electricity project, Arun III project, Pancheshwar Development Authority, Tarai road projects, Mahakali bridges, Line of Credit projects and reconstruction projects funded by India.
Although there has been progress on some fronts, such as the removal of the Indian field office from Biratnagar and the opening up of the railway track in Janakpur, things remain stalled on the preparation of the detailed project report of Pancheshwar Development Authority, part of the Mahakali Treaty, and construction of the Nepal Police Academy building.
There is a separate package for reconstruction projects under the grant scheme (housing, cultural heritage, health, education) and line of credits of $750 million. The two neighbours have yet to settle $750 million Indian soft loan on post-earthquake reconstruction projects in partnership with the government of Nepal, within the inter-governmental framework.
Apart from holding talks with Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi, Gokhale is also expected to meet Prime Minister Oli and Foreign Minister Gyawali.