New Delhi: Kathmandu and New Delhi should have a “sustained dialogue” on all issues and not just on the border, even as both sides should focus on expediting bilateral projects, Nilamber Acharya, the Nepal Ambassador to India, has said.
In an exclusive interview to ThePrint, Acharya said it is a “positive indication” that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepali counterpart K.P. Sharma Oli had a phone conversation on 15 August when bilateral issues were discussed.
That ws the first time the two leaders spoke after Nepal released a controversial political map in May showing the disputed regions of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh as part of its own territory. The map has been rejected by India.
“This is a positive sign that both PMs have spoken after 2-3 months of problems. India and Nepal should begin a dialogue soon. India and Nepal will resolve all issues peacefully if a sustained dialogue is built,” Acharya told ThePrint.
“There are many other important matters that need to be settled, the border issue is not the only issue in our bilateral ties,” he added.
“We hope this dialogue will continue and that both countries will continue to have cordial ties,” he further said. “After all, we have a broad and wide comprehensive relationship. There can be a difference of opinion but that can’t impact the comprehensive ties.”
Ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu have become severely strained with Nepal issuing a new political map showing about 335 sq km of the disputed Kalapani region as its territory, after India inaugurated a new road to Kailash Mansarovar passing through the Lipulekh region.
New Delhi called the step unilateral and rejected it stating it won’t accept “artificial enlargement of Nepal’s territory”.
India has said it will hold the proposed Foreign Secretary-level dialogue on the issue of border when the coronavirus pandemic subsides.
Pancheshwar project, Terai roads back in focus
Some of the key bilateral infrastructure projects that have been pending for a long time have once again come back in focus as both sides resumed dialogue.
On Monday, India and Nepal held the meeting of the ‘Oversight Mechanism’ to discuss development and fast-tracking of the projects that are being developed by the Indian government there.
According to sources, Nepal has urged India to expedite the Pancheshwar multipurpose project and the network of roads in the Terai region that have been pending for a long time.
Other bilateral projects that were discussed during the meeting were cross-border railways, Arun-III hydropower project, petroleum products pipelines, post-earthquake reconstruction, irrigation, power and transmission lines, construction of a Nepal Police Academy, integrated check posts, the Ramayana circuit and motorable bridges over Mahakali River in the disputed Kalapani region.
“Both sides have agreed to hold the next meeting of the Oversight Mechanism on a mutually convenient date to review the progress made in the implementation of the government of India assisted economic and development cooperation projects in Nepal,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a release.
The meeting was held through video-conferencing between India’s Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, and the Nepal Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi. The ‘Oversight Mechanism’ last met in 2016.
“Both sides underlined the need for the expeditious implementation of the bilateral projects. In that connection, they agreed to undertake necessary measures to timely address problems and obstacles in the course of implementation,” Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a release.