Foreign Secretary Shringla and Nepalese leaders discuss boundary issues

Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali says Nepal wants both India and China as partners

November 26, 2020 12:40 pm | Updated November 27, 2020 09:54 am IST - Kathmandu

Extending assistance: Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla handing over 2,000 vials of Remdesivir to Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. Photo: Twitter

Extending assistance: Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla handing over 2,000 vials of Remdesivir to Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. Photo: Twitter

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla reached Kathmandu on Thursday in a major outreach to Nepal, which has been caught in a bitter boundary dispute with India regarding the Kalapani region for more than a year. Mr. Shringla met with his counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal and the Nepalese leadership and discussed a number of issues, including the border dispute.

Also read:  Nepal map row | PM Oli hints at softer stand with Dasara greetings

“Both sides shared their perspectives on boundary matters and discussed ways to take it forward under the appropriate bilateral mechanisms,” an informed source said here on Thursday evening, elaborating on the discussion held between Mr. Shringla and Mr. Paudyal. The Hindu has learnt that Mr. Shringla held a “candid review” of the bilateral relationship with Nepal during his interaction with Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli.

“PM Oli conveyed Nepal’s desire to build on the momentum in the bilateral relationship and enhance the level of bilateral engagement,” said the source. Both sides discussed multiple plans like the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project as well as the starting of an air travel bubble between Nepal and India.

A statement from the Nepalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said the Indian Foreign Secretary and his Nepalese hosts discussed “matters of mutual interests” during the multiple discussions held on Thursday. “They reviewed various aspects of Nepal-India relations covering trade, transit, connectivity, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, investment, culture, people to people relations among others,” the statement from MoFA, Nepal explained.

The Hindu explains: Why are India and Nepal fighting over Kalapani?

Mr. Shringla also met President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on Thursday afternoon and briefed her about the COVID-19 related cooperation between the two countries. On Friday morning, the Indian Foreign Secretary is expected to deliver a lecture at the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA) in Kathmandu.

In a statement, the AIDIA said the lecture is aimed at “addressing issues related to Nepal-India bilateral cooperation”. The Hindu had earlier reported that officials here are not viewing the visit as a climbdown after months-long confrontation with Kathmandu since Nepal asserted its claim over the Kalapani region of Pithoragarh district and published a new official map and a new national insignia.

Foreign Minister Gyawali on Thursday briefed a Parliamentary Committee in Kathmandu and said Nepal would convey to India and China that it wants to move together with both. “Nepal will send a message that it has no interest other than going together [with both],” Kantipur Daily reported Mr. Gyawali saying while referring to the visit of Mr. Shringla and Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe, who will arrive in Kathmandu on Sunday.

Nepal has been demanding the Foreign Secretary-level talks since the problem over Kalapani intensified. India described Nepal’s new map, which shows Kalapani-Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepalese sovereign territory, as “cartographic aggression”. However, Mr. Shringla blamed COVID-19 for the delay in the visit. “I wanted to visit earlier but could not do so because of COVID-19,” he said in his comments at the airport.

Sources said India has not changed its position on Kalapani. “Our position on the boundary is very clear and we are not changing it,” The Hindu reported earlier, citing a senior official here.

Mr. Shringla’s visit comes weeks after the chief of Research and Analysis Wing Samant Goel visited Kathmandu and Mr. Oli. That visit was followed by the trip of Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane. After a prolonged phase of bitterness, which also coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, the normalisation process was supported by an August 15 phone call from PM Oli to PM Modi, when both sides spoke to each other after a gap of several months.

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