No progress on initiating talks with India on Kalapani issuePrime Minister Oli wants to send senior leader Madhav Nepal to Delhi as his emissary, but no formal decision has been made yet.
Even a month after a new Indian political map that places the Kalapani area within India’s borders created an uproar in Nepal, there has been no progress from the government side to take up the issue with New Delhi at Track-I or Track-II level.
Kathmandu had earlier made an official request with India to resolve the issue through talks.
On November 8, Nepali Ambassador to India Nilamber Acharya met with Indian Foreign Secretary Vijaya Gokhle and communicated Nepal’s request for talks. But no date has been fixed yet.
Last week, dispatching a diplomatic note to India, Nepal had offered to hold Foreign Secretary-level talks in Kathmandu. A Foreign Secretary-level mechanism has been mandated with the task of resolving all outstanding bilateral boundary disputes, including Susta and Kalapani.
According to two senior ruling party leaders, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli also held discussions with the party’s senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, also a former prime minister, on the possibility of sending him to New Delhi as his emissary to hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior Indian officials to seek an amicable solution to the issue.
Nepal, during a party secretariat meeting on Wednesday, revealed that he had received an offer from Oli to visit India in order to hold talks on the Kalapani issue with the Indian side at the highest political level. But no official request has been sent so far, according to a party secretariat member who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In these last four weeks, several leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, including Prime Minister Oli, opened up their respective contacts and communications with various sources in India to understand the mood in New Delhi, including the Indian Prime Minister’s Office, for the talks, said ruling party leaders.
Though the Indian side has not refused talks at any level, it has insisted that dialogue should first be held at the Foreign Secretary-level. Hence, leader Nepal’s visit to New Delhi is unlikely anytime soon, another ruling party leader, who also requested anonymity, told the Post.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has also communicated with the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi that only diplomatic channels are proper to hold talks on border disputes and that they are working on a date for talks with the Nepali side, at least two officials familiar with the development told the Post. But opinions are divided in Kathmandu. During an interaction on Nepal’s international boundary and its effective management, organised by the Institute of Foreign Affairs on Monday, two former foreign secretaries, Gyan Chandra Acharya and Madhuraman Acharya, said that boundary disputes like Kalapani cannot be resolved through diplomatic channels.
Both diplomats said that if the diplomatic channel could settle the issue, it would have been settled long ago. The duo appeared unanimous in initiating dialogue at the political level, with initiations most preferably by the prime minister himself, which could be followed up by the foreign secretary and foreign minister.
The government now is making up its mind to hold talks at the Foreign Secretary-level first, because if talks at the prime minister’s level—or through a special envoy—fail to yield results, Nepal could run out of options, according to multiple leaders the Post spoke to.
“We have sent a formal request to hold talks at the Foreign Secretary-level and waiting for a response [from Delhi],” Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi told the Post. “Besides that, we have not sent any other request.”
Diplomatic sources in New Delhi told the Post that former prime minister Nepal, Oli’s foreign relations adviser Rajan Bhattarai and two Deputy Prime Ministers, Ishwor Pokharel and Upendra Yadav, are invited to participate in Raisina Dialogue on January 13 to 15.
Raisina Dialogue is an annual event held at the initiative of India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation, a think tank based in New Delhi.
“We have requested for Foreign Secretary-level talks but besides that, we have not made any other formal request for Track II initiative,” said an official at the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi.
Oli’s press adviser Surya Thapa said he has no idea about sending NCP leader Nepal to India as a special envoy of the prime minister.
“But what I am hearing is that official level talks are more preferred this time,” Thapa told the Post
After a huge uproar over India’s political map, Oli on November 10 had called an all-party meeting to solicit views on resolving the boundary dispute with India. Leaders present at the meeting had called on the prime minister to initiate diplomatic talks with India.
According to leaders, as per the commitment made at the meeting, Oli was considering a two-pronged strategy. Accordingly, Kathmandu sent a request to hold talks at the Foreign Secretary-level. Senior leader Nepal’s possible visit to New Delhi was part of Track II initiative.