As Indian PM Narendra Modi renewed his ‘neighborhood first’ policy on the first day of New Year 2020 by initiating telephone calls to his counterparts in the neighboring countries including Nepal, there are high expectations that the burdens that exist between Nepal and India including border concerns would be resolved in the new year.
The phone call by Indian PM Modi to his Nepali counterpart KP Oli on Wednesday morning comes in the view of Nepal looking for beginning afresh diplomatic negotiation to settle the border issues surrounding Kalapani and other areas with India.
PM Oli in a tweet said they during the phone conversation shared that the year 2019 determined to be a successful year in elevating bilateral ties to a new height. Prime Minister Oli said he expressed confidence that the year 2020 will be equally successful in taking Nepal-India relations to the next level by resolving the pending issues.
Analysts say the New Year pleasantry reflects PM Modi’s desire to keep the Nepal-India relations free from any kinds of irritants.
As per a press statement published by the Press Information Bureau of India, during the phone conversation, Modi expressed his satisfaction at the progress of India-Nepal relations in 2019, with the completion of several projects including Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline in record time.
The leaders also agreed for an early inauguration of the Integrated Check Post in Biratnagar and the housing reconstruction project in Nepal through video conference.
Sources said PM Oli, during the phone conversation on Wednesday, also touched on the border-related issues including Kalapani and expressed Nepal’s desire to resolve them at the earliest.
A report prepared by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of both the countries that identifies all problems that exist in bilateral relations and recommends measures to resolve them is awaiting Modi’s acceptance.
Nepal earlier requested India through diplomatic channels for gathering the meeting of the foreign secretary-led mechanism in view of mounting public pressure following the newly-released political map of India included Kalapani and other territories pertaining to Nepal as per Sugauli Treaty, which defines the boundary between Nepal and India, in its side of the border.
Although the Indian side has reacted to Nepal to sit for negotiation at a mutually convenient time, no date has been fixed yet. In a recent diplomatic communication, Nepal has proposed to convene the meeting in mid-January—something the Indian side is yet to respond.
Jayaraj Acharya the Former ambassador and foreign affairs expert said PM Modi’s cultural gesture is a welcome move as it comes in the wake of Nepal seeking to resolve border issues. “The exchange of new year pleasantry is certainly a good thing. But the resolution of border issue is a whole new chapter,” he said.
Acharya said since both the leaders in Nepal and India seem intent to discuss all the outstanding issues that have developed as trouble factors in the mutual relations, continued diplomatic efforts could help to settle all outstanding bilateral issues including those associated with borders. He said “The border issues can be resolved only through diplomatic channels. But these efforts need to be backed by political leaders,” while adding that the bonhomie between the two leaders could be helpful in this regard.
Apart from PM Oli, Indian PM Modi had called King Jigme KhesarNamgyelWangchuck of Bhutan, Prime Minister LyonchhenLotayTshering of Bhutan, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
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