Nepal-India discuss crucial bilateral issues at foreign secretary-level talks held in New Delhi on TuesdayThe meeting encompassed issues related to boundary matters, energy cooperation and trade and transit and the construction of LPG pipeline.
Nepal and India held a foreign secretary-level meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday wherein officials from the two governments discussed bilateral issues ranging from boundary matters to energy cooperation.
The meeting also discussed a review of the Treaty of Trade and Transit and the construction of a liquefied petroleum gas pipeline from Motihari, India to Chitwan among others.
However, statements issued by the Nepali Embassy and Ministry of External Affairs, India do not mention the hotly-debated issue of the resumption of recruitment of Nepali youths in the Indian Army. Nepal has expressed reservations about Agnipath, a newly-launched scheme under the Narendra Modi government, apropos to the number of years a recruit is allowed to serve in the army.
Under the scheme, the Indian government will recruit “Agniveers” who will be released from service after four years. The provision will also be applicable to the Gorkha Regiment, a dedicated force of the Indian Army that hires only Nepali nationals and Nepali-speaking people.
A Nepali official said that Nepal has sought further clarification on the scheme and communicated its position to the Indian side.
At the meeting, initiated at the invitation of Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra, held in Hyderabad House, the officials expressed satisfaction at the progress made in different areas including the power sector, construction of transmission lines, railway connectivity, construction of integrated check posts, motorable bridges and other important infrastructures, according to a statement issued by the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi.
The Nepali delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Poudyal.
They also discussed early conclusion of the Transit Treaty including its Protocol and the Memorandum to the Protocol and expediting the review of the Treaty Trade, the statement added.
The Nepali side also raised matters related to fertiliser supply, and the waiver of export restrictions in wheat, sugar, paddy, and rice grains. Following the Russia-Ukraine war, India has imposed a ban on exports of some food items.
“Recalling the outcome of high-level visits, both sides discussed seamless power trade under mutually beneficial arrangements. They also discussed boundary matters. They exchanged views on completing the boundary works on remaining segments through established bilateral mechanisms,” said the Nepali statement.
Nepal has been requesting India to convene the meeting of the Boundary Working Group in order to complete the boundary works between Nepal and India but India has been reluctant to commence the fieldwork as directed to the BWG, said officials.
The foreign secretaries reviewed the entire spectrum of bilateral cooperation between India and Nepal, including economic and commercial cooperation, enhancing connectivity, development cooperation, trade, culture and people-people relations. They noted with appreciation the progress on many projects and initiatives announced during the recent visits of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to India (April 2022) and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi to Lumbini, Nepal (May 2022).
At the meeting, according to the Indian statement, the recent progress in bilateral cooperation in the power sector including the export of power from Nepal to India was appreciated.
“It was also agreed that both sides will work to further strengthen such cooperation in keeping with the Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation adopted during the visit of the Prime Minister of Nepal to India in April 2022. Both sides welcomed the recent signing of the MoUs between NHPC, India and IBN, Nepal on the development of West Seti and SR-6 projects,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
In terms of connectivity projects, the progress made in the operationalisation of the Kurta-Bijalpura segment of the Jayanagar-Bardibas rail link and Bathnaha-Nepal Custom Yard segment of the Jogbani-Biratnagar rail link, was noted with satisfaction.
“The Nepali side appreciated the Covid-19 assistance provided by India during the pandemic and also thanked the Indian side for keeping the supply lines of trade open, even during the lockdown period.”
To further strengthen people-people links, both sides agreed to expeditiously progress on project proposals for the Ramayana Circuit, said the statement issued by the Indian side. Both sides also agreed to expeditiously implement the extension of the petroleum pipeline from Amlekhgunj to Chitwan and the construction of an LPG pipeline from Motihari to Chitwan.
Foreign Secretary Poudyal is scheduled to call on S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister of India on Wednesday.