Nepal proposes mid-January for Kalapani talks with IndiaGiven high-level changes at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, this meeting is unlikely to happen, say analysts.
Nepal has proposed to India that the two countries meet for foreign secretary-level talks in mid-January to resolve an ongoing boundary dispute, but the meeting is unlikely to take place, say officials.
There has just been a change of guard at the Indian External Affairs Ministry and the new Indian foreign secretary, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, will only be taking charge at the end of January. And outgoing foreign secretary Vijaya Keshav Gokhale is unlikely to hold talks on such a sensitive matter in his final days in office.
“If the new date was proposed in prior consultation with India then there are chances that the foreign secretary-level talks with India might happen on the proposed date, but otherwise, when there are changes taking place in India’s Foreign Ministry, it is unlikely to happen,” said Madan Kumar Bhattarai, a former foreign secretary.
Nepal proposed mid-January in response to an Indian note verbale to Nepal last week. A note verbale is a form of diplomatic communication that is less formal than a note but more formal than an aide-memoire or memorandum.
“It may also take some time to hand over responsibility to the new secretary,” said Bhattarai. “As far as I know, Shringla, the new Indian foreign secretary, knows South Asia quite well so there will not be much of a delay.”
According to Bhattarai, the Indian foreign secretary directly handles relations with major powers and countries in the region so talks are possible because Shringla is a good Nepal hand in the Indian foreign service.
“Changes in India’s Ministry of External Affairs and not having an Indian ambassador in Kathmandu may trigger some delay but our communication will remain in the institutional memory of the Indian ministry,” said a senior foreign ministry official who did not wish to be named.
Manjeev Singh Puri, the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, has just completed his tenure in the foreign service and India has yet to appoint his successor.
During a regular press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali confirmed that Nepal has proposed a new date to sit for talks in order to end the boundary dispute in Kalapani. Gyawali, however, did not reveal the date.
“We have to retain our land anyhow,” said Gyawali. “The boundary dispute is a responsibility imposed on us by history. We received a reply from India and now we have to initiate talks.”
A foreign secretary-level mechanism has been entrusted with the task of resolving all outstanding boundary disputes, including Susta and Kalapani. But the mechanism has failed to make much progress since it was constituted.
The new Indian political map, released on November 2 to mark the split of Jammu and Kashmir in line with the Narendra Modi government’s decision to repeal the state’s autonomous status, places Kalapani within Indian borders, leading to a massive uproar in Nepal.
Pressure has since mounted on the KP Sharma Oli administration to hold talks with India regarding Kalapani. The opposition Nepali Congress and a section of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) have both expressed dissatisfaction at the government for not doing enough to ensure talks with India.
Immediately after India released its map, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had issued a statement asserting that Kalapani is a part of Nepal and that “any unilateral decision regarding outstanding issues that need to be sorted out through mutual agreement will not be acceptable to the Nepal government”.
Protesting the new map, Nepal also dispatched a diplomatic note to India’s Ministry of External Affairs on November 20 and offered to sit for talks on November 23.India replied officially after a month, acknowledging Nepal’s concerns and agreeing to meet at a mutually convenient date.
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