Indian external affairs minister to visit Nepal this monthS Jaishankar, widely criticised for his role in the 2015 Indian blockade, will take part in the fifth Nepal-India joint commission meeting.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the new Indian External Affairs Minister, will arrive in Kathmandu on a two-day official visit beginning August 21, leading an Indian delegation to the fifth meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission at the foreign minister level. Jaishankar’s arrival will mark the first high-level political visit from India after the re-election of the Narendra Modi government in May.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu on Friday have both approved of the dates for Jaishankar’s visit, two officials familiar with developments told the Post. With the dates confirmed, both sides will begin preparations for their respective agendas.
“We are still discussing some dates, but it is certain that the meeting is going to happen,” Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali told the Post. “The meeting will review all aspects of our relations and all bilateral issues.”
The Joint Commission at the foreign minister level is the highest mechanism that reviews all aspects of bilateral ties between the two countries, and is empowered to take decisions as well as carve out a new blueprint. The last meeting of the commission was held in New Delhi in 2016. August’s meeting should have been held in February, but was postponed due to the Indian parliamentary elections.
During the visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to India in May to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, both leaders had agreed to hold the stalled joint commission meeting at the earliest.
On August 22, Jaishankar is expected to meet with President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the prime minister, and other leaders before departing for New Delhi. Jaishankar will interact with a broad spectrum of the Nepali political leaders to discuss what the new government in India thinks about Nepal and most importantly, help the new government in India carve out its Nepal policy, officials familiar with the plans told the Post.
The meeting is expected to comprehensively review all aspects of Nepal-India relations under five broad clusters—political, security and boundary; economic cooperation and infrastructure; trade and transit; power and water resources; culture and education.
Nepal is expected to prominently raise the issue of the Eminent Persons’ Group report, that is still awaiting submission to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. An official familiar with developments told the Post that inundation in the Tarai due to Indian infrastructure and embankments will also be discussed.
Jaishankar had travelled several times to Kathmandu as foreign secretary, and once in September 2015 as a special emissary of Modi prior to the promulgation of the new constitution in Nepal. His communication with the top political leadership in Nepal was widely criticised, and later, a blockade was imposed after his return to New Delhi.
Jaishankar’s visit comes at a time when Nepal-India ties have been wracked by irritants, including water-logging on the Nepal side of the border due to Indian infrastructure, disputes over pesticide residue tests on imported Indian vegetables and fruits; and the cancellation of the proposed International Indian Film Academy awards.