New Delhi: Come 17 August, India and Nepal are set to hold their first high-level meeting since the map row erupted in May, ThePrint has learnt.
According to sources, the meeting will involve India’s Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Nepal Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, but discussions will centre on some of the ongoing projects that New Delhi is developing in the Himalayan nation, including large-scale connectivity and infrastructure development projects.
Although the first high-level meeting between India and Nepal since Kathmandu released a controversial map that claims three Indian territories, the interaction is a “routine” affair that takes place every few months and not the “beginning towards a way forward” on the border dispute, sources said.
“This is not a dialogue per se. This is routine. There’s no headquarters component. It is an existing mechanism to review projects,” said a top official who refused to be identified.
“We have regular meetings. This is a periodic review we do every six months. Usual and routine. Nothing more, nothing less,” said another official.
The meeting comes months after the India-Nepal Joint Project Monitoring Committee held talks in Kathmandu this March.
Tensions between India and Nepal have soared since 20 May, when Kathmandu issued a new political map showing the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its borders. The move came after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a new road on 8 May that connects Lipulekh pass with the Kailash-Mansarovar route in China.
India has said it will “not accept artificial enlargement” of Nepal’s territorial claims, urging the Nepalese leadership to “create a positive atmosphere for diplomatic dialogue to resolve the outstanding boundary issues”.
India continues to remain firm on its stance that the talks on the border issue at the level of foreign secretaries — as demanded by Nepal — will only take place once the Covid-19 situation subsides.
‘No alternative to talks’
Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali was quoted as saying Monday that the two border nations have no alternative to dialogue.
“We don’t have alternatives to talks … We can’t hold our entire ties hostage to the differences over the boundary issue,” Gyawali told The Kathmandu Post.
“For the time being, the boundary issues can be isolated. But sooner or later, we have to resolve them. Differences over one issue should not overshadow our entire bilateral relations. We have to move on. We believe in constructive engagement, and the upcoming meeting is just one positive step towards that end. We are confident that our partnership with India will move towards a positive direction.”
Currently, India is involved in constructing 10 roads with a total length of 306 km in Nepal’s Terai region. India is also involved in six railway projects and hydropower projects in Nepal.
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