Seeking extensive review of the 1950 India-Nepal Friendship Treaty, the government-appointed Eminent Persons Group (EPG) has held discussions on “regulation” of movement of people across the border. Nepali sources confirmed that at the latest meeting of the EPG held on October 8, the Nepali delegation brought proposals seeking changes in the friendship treaty and the need for border policing to stop cross-border crimes and trafficking.
“The mandate that was given to the EPG following the meeting between Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 20 February 2016, included taking a serious look at a possible review of the friendship treaty which was concluded decades ago,” said Dr. Bhes Bahadur Thapa, coordinator of the Nepali team to the EPG.
Dr. Thapa urged for better border policing and effective regulation of movement of people, and said, “The border between the two sides is already delineated and the border posts are already in place but many of these markers are damaged indicating poor maintenance. There is an urgent need to police the border better to stop cross-border crime and ensure regulated movement of people,” Mr. Thapa said, explaining that the India-Nepal border needs to be upgraded with new security measures.
The EPG was constituted during the India visit of Mr. Sharma Oli on February 20 2016, towards the end of the blockade that was imposed by the Madhesi agitators from Nepal’s plains bordering Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As per the agreement, the EPG is to consist of eight members with four members representing each side. Hinting at growing stress in ties, sources have confirmed that a visit by Prime Minister Modi that was to take place this month, has been postponed.
The observations of the Nepali team at the EPG indicate the chill in bilateral relation that is yet to recover from the blockade of 2015 imposed by the Madhesi protesters of Nepal’s border areas that Nepal blamed on India.
However an official source from the Ministry of External Affairs said such a recommendation would not be acceptable to the government of India as it created EPG on the basis of an understanding that free interaction between India and Nepal is necessary for bilateral ties.
“The EPG is entitled to come up with recommendations but they would be evaluated by the governments finally and we may or may not accept such recommendations. A recommendation to seal the border or create hurdles for free movement of people is not in the interest of long-term bilateral interest,” said the official. Former ambassador and expert of Nepal politics, Dr S.D. Muni however pointed out that the EPG is also expected to serve a broader interest of maintaining open channel for discussion.