Gyawali calls again for border resolution, as Modi declines meeting

Sources told The Hindu that Nepali delegation had requested a meeting

January 16, 2021 09:03 pm | Updated 10:35 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh greets Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali before a meeting in New Delhi on January 16, 2021.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh greets Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali before a meeting in New Delhi on January 16, 2021.

India and Nepal have weathered the last year of a strain in ties over the boundary issue , said visiting Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, but stressed that the dispute over Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyudhara areas should be resolved for the benefit of “future generations”.

“Nepal wants to resolve this problem so we can have an undisputed, peaceful stable boundary. These are issues awaiting discussion and interaction from the leadership, so that we can focus on the future free from historical baggage for the future generations,” Mr. Gyawali told journalists during an interaction on Saturday morning, at the end of a three-day visit when he attended the 6th India Nepal Joint Commission meeting with External affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

Also read: Ahead of Gywali’s visit, Nepal, India differ on conducting ‘border talks’

Mr. Gyawali also met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and discussed bilateral ties on Saturday. This was the first Nepali ministerial visit since tensions over the boundary demarcation erupted in May 2020.

“The Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister Singh) conveyed his personal connect, long association with leadership and special regard for the people of Nepal. Both the dignitaries expressed their satisfaction at the excellent military-to-military cooperation. Raksha Mantri stated that India is ready to provide Humanitarian assistance & Disaster Relief (HADR) training & capacity building of Nepal,” a Defence Ministry statement said.

Also read: No longer special: On India-Nepal ties

Amendment to map

However, in a possible indicator that India is still displeased over the Nepal government’s decision to amend its map to include Indian territories, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not have a meeting with Mr. Gyawali.

Sources told The Hindu that the Nepali delegation had requested a meeting, and hoped it would be granted, given that Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli had granted meetings to Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, Army Chief General Manoj Naravane, and R&AW chief Samant Goyal when they visited Kathmandu on separate occasions last year.

Speaking to the media, Mr. Gyawali said he would inform them “later” about the possibility of meeting the Prime Minister, indicating he had expected the meeting would materialise.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) declined to comment on the issue.

According to former Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood, the Prime Minister’s decision was a signal that despite a thaw in ties, all is not well between New Delhi and Kathmandu yet, given Nepal's refusal to reconsider its new map.

“I think the fact that there was no call on the Prime Minister [Modi] during Mr. Gyawali’s visit is a message to the Oli government that India is still looking for more signs of flexibility, and that it isn’t all hunky-dory,” Mr. Sood told The Hindu .

Mr. Gyawali’s visit had been seen as a message that India is willing to deal with the Oli government despite tensions, and even though it is a caretaker government, after Mr. Oli dissolved parliament and declared fresh elections. New Delhi has also been careful not to comment on the political turmoil the decision caused, and the split in the ruling Nepali Communist Party between Mr. Oli’s faction and that led by former Prime Minister Prachanda and Madhav Nepal, in contrast to the active role played by Beijing, who even sent a high-level delegation of the Chinese Communist Party to try and resolve the rift, unsuccessfully.

Denies ‘interference’

When asked, Mr. Gyawali denied that there had been any “interference” and dismissed former Mr. Prachanda’s counter-allegation that Mr. Oli had dissolved parliament at the “direct of India”.

“Nepal’s relations with both our neighbours are excellent, and we never compare them. We never accept interference in our domestic politics. We are able to settle our own problems without help from outside. As a close neighbour, there may be some concerns or questions but we never accept interference,” he said.

On return to Kathmandu Mr. Gyawali said he was satisfied with the outcome of his visit to New Delhi. He noted that he had received assurances that Nepal would be a “priority” for India once it began supplying coronavirus vaccines to other countries.

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