Bureaucratic change at Indian Ministry of External Affairs likely to further delay Kalapani talksNepal has been asking for a foreign secretary-level meeting since November but the Indian foreign secretary retires in January.
As Nepal awaits foreign secretary-level talks with India to resolve the Kalapani boundary dispute, a possible change in India’s Ministry of External Affairs is likely to further delay the expected meeting.
Officials in New Delhi told the Post that Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale retires at the end of January and whoever comes in next will have a host of pressing issues to deal with. The Narendra Modi government is currently embroiled in a number of controversies, both internal and external. Among them, the recent citizenship amendment bill has sparked riots and protests across India.
If Gokhale’s term is not extended beyond January, the Kalapani talks will take a backseat as the new foreign secretary is briefed on matters that require their urgent attention, said New Delhi officials. Gokhale’s term is unlikely to be extended, they said.
In the first week of November, Nepal made a formal request with India to hold foreign secretary-level talks to resolve the Kalapani issue. The request was reiterated in a diplomatic note dispatched to New Delhi in the third week of November. New Delhi has yet to respond.
“First, India itself is not interested to talk on the Kalapani issue,” a Nepali diplomat based in Delhi told the Post on condition of anonymity. “Second, why would Gokhale, who is on the verge of retirement, talk to his counterpart on such a sensitive issue?”
A senior Foreign Ministry official also said that Nepal is aware of what is happening in India after the new citizenship bill was introduced and the changes that will take place inside India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Nepal has objected to India’s new political map, which places Kalapani within Indian borders. The map was released last month after Delhi formally split up the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal territories, in line with an August move by the Modi government to rescind Kashmir’s autonomy.
Addressing a regular press conference in New Delhi last Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that he “cannot react at this forum”.
“Our position on the matter is very clear and consistent,” said Kumar. “It has been articulated in previous briefings.”
Kumar was referring to his November 7 briefing during which he had said the Indian political map accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India. “The new map has in no manner revised our boundary with Nepal. The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing under the existing mechanism,” he had said.
Anil Giri contributed reporting from Kathmandu.