After concluding the annual talks between Nepal and India over security and the open border, the Indian delegation returns to Delhi on Monday, concluding the two-day visit to Kathmandu. Substantive negotiations took place on Saturday, when the delegation, led by India’s Home Secretary R.K.Singh, held a wide-ranging meeting with their Nepali counterparts led by Nepal’s Home Secretary Navin Ghimire.

A press statement issued by Nepal at the end of the proceedings said that the two countries agreed to “repair border pillars”, as well as to increase the capacity of Nepal’s Armed Police Force and expand India’s Borders Security Forces to control criminal activities along the open border. The two sides also agreed to form a technical team to investigate the missing pillars on both sides of the no man’s land. In addition, India offered technical and material assistance to strengthen the immigration setup along the border should Nepal request such assistance. Similar offer was made to upgrade Nepal’s only international airport in Kathmandu to strengthen its security, and an offer to set up a Police Academy is waiting for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding.

According to sources, India, as in previous meetings, requested Nepal to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and a revised Extradition Treaty, which the Nepali side is keen to defer because of the ongoing political flux.

Border concerns

A joint team from both countries has already surveyed has found three areas where the two countries disagreed on the border – Pashupatinagar in the east, Susta in the south and Kalapani in the west of Nepal. But the maps demarcating the border have not been signed by both parties, partly because India wants to settle on each issue separately. Nepal has been insisting that the three disputed areas be settled together.

An Indian participant on Saturday’s meeting said that more than 90 % of the border has been agreed upon, and India wants concurrence on the agreed-upon sectors, but the Nepali side is unwilling to sign the maps because of the lack of political consensus on the issue.

‘Border encroachment’ is a sensitive issue in Nepal, especially since hundreds of the border pillars have either been washed away by floods or are otherwise missing. In November last year, the state news agency, RSS, claimed that up to 14,000 hectares of land in Susta in Nawalparasi was “encroached” by India, and Nepal’s parties, especially the radical communists, occasionally send their student groups along the border to ‘protect Nepal’s sovereignty’ and whip-up nationalist sentiments.

But the relationship between the two Home ministries is much smoother than the relationship between Nepal’s politicians and the South Block, which houses India’s Ministry of External Affairs, according to one expert.

“There is a great deal of cooperation and intelligence sharing,” said Nepal former Home Secretary Umesh Mainali, “which is absolutely essential to secure our open border.”

Keeping with the tradition of alternating the venues, the next meeting of home secretaries will take place in India next year.