New Delhi: In a major sign indicating warming up of bilateral ties, India and Nepal have discussed ways to resolve the issue of the Kalapani border dispute and to establish an air bubble between both the countries, during the two-day crucial visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Kathmandu.
During the maiden visit by the foreign secretary to Nepal, which concluded Friday, Shringla met Prime Minister K.P. Oli, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, apart from his Nepali counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal, and raised all bilateral issues, including the recent row over Nepal’s new political map, sources told ThePrint.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Oli, both sides agreed to “further strengthen bilateral ties.”
FS @harshvshringla called on Rt. Hon. Prime Minister @kpsharmaoli and conveyed greetings of PM @narendramodi. They discussed the wide-ranging partnership between India and Nepal and ways to further strengthen it. #IndiaNepalFriendship @MEAIndia @PMOIndia pic.twitter.com/xfKYDg905p
— IndiaInNepal (@IndiaInNepal) November 26, 2020
In May this year, bilateral ties had hit choppy waters over the issue of the unsettled border between both sides in the Kalapani region.
The matter deteriorated further when Nepal unilaterally issued a new political map showing the disputed areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of their own territory.
Kathmandu even amended their Constitution to reflect the new map in June, which India rejected.
According to diplomatic sources in India and Nepal, both sides discussed the new map and decided to resolve the matter through a continued dialogue mechanism.
New Delhi and Kathmandu “discussed the boundary matters and exchanged views on completing the boundary work in the remaining segments,” said a statement issued by the Nepal’s Foreign Ministry Thursday.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in 2014, it was decided that the boundary issue will be discussed between both neighbours at the level of foreign secretaries.
Air bubble and Pancheshwar project
Owing to restrictions in free movement of people at the border areas, India and Nepal are soon going to establish a bilateral “air bubble” arrangement.
Air transport bubble pacts are temporary travel arrangements between countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended.
According to Nepal’s foreign ministry, both sides discussed the issue of pending projects, including the most important Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project (PMP) that has been pending for over 25 years.
The PMP — first envisaged as part of the Mahakali treaty that India and Nepal signed in 1996 — includes setting up of two hydro-electric plants with a total installed capacity of 5,040 MW and a 315 metre-high dam to meet the power and irrigation requirements of the two countries.
The last meeting on the project was held in February 2019 in Nepal. It is now India’s turn to hold the next round.
On Friday, addressing the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs, a Nepali think-tank, Shringla said that enhancing cross-border connectivity and infrastructure projects are critical for the development of bilateral ties.
“For India, Nepal is fundamental to our ‘Neighbourhood First’ approach. India’s development and modernisation are incomplete, and intrinsically and symbiotically linked to the development and modernisation of neighbouring countries such as Nepal,” he said.