New Delhi: Amid the growing political and constitutional crisis in Kathmandu, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali is all set to visit New Delhi in mid-January to hold the India-Nepal joint commission meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, ThePrint has learnt.
Gyawali will be accompanied by a high-powered delegation, and will discuss “all issues of bilateral importance”, which includes the contentious Kalapani-Lipulekh border issue, official sources told ThePrint.
The visit in the new year is significant since bilateral ties have undergone severe strain in 2020 over Nepal’s issuance of a new political map in May in which it claimed the disputed regions of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura spread over around 335 sq km. This is the only border area between India and Nepal that continues to remain disputed.
This will also be the first high-level visit from Nepal to India post the developments in May.
Sources said Gyawali’s visit is expected to pave the way for the foreign secretary-level talks on the border issue, which has been pending since 2014. This was committed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit that year.
The India-Nepal joint commission is the highest-level dialogue mechanism between both the sides.
Oli visit likely too
After Gyawali’s visit, Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli may also visit India, sources added.
“Nepal and India relations are moving forward. We have always been close in our ties across all sectors and they are developing according to the needs of the time. There have been many high-level visits happening from India’s side,” Nilamber Acharya, Ambassador of Nepal to India, told ThePrint. “Now we are expecting visits from the Nepal side also. We are expecting the joint commission meeting to take place soon. But I cannot confirm the dates. Despite difficulties in the past, we are now moving forward.”
In May 2020, Prime Minister Oli took a unilateral decision to change the political map of Nepal and even amended the Nepali Constitution to inculcate the new map into its emblem.
India has rejected the Nepalese claim to Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura, saying it will not accept such “artificial enlargement” of territory, and that it will discuss the unsettled border issue when the pandemic subsides.
The visit also comes at a time when the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is facing unprecedented challenges after a sudden dissolution of the country’s lower house of Parliament, also known as the House of Representatives, by Oli.
The party has informally split into two quarrelling factions — one led by Oli who continues to run the caretaker government and the other is led by former prime ministers Pushp Kumar Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Madhav Kumar Nepal.
The NCP was formed in May 2018 by uniting the two major Left parties of Nepal — the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) led by Oli, and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), led by Prachanda. It was decided then that the two leaders will serve as joint chairmen of the party under an electoral alliance.
Series of high-level visits
In the last three months, a series of high-level visits had taken place from India to Nepal, starting with RAW chief Samant Kumar Goel in October. Army Chief Gen M.M. Naravane visited the country in November, followed by Foreign Secretary Shringla the same month.
Shringla has vowed to take the ties, which had been under strain since May, “forward”.