Prime Minister Deuba’s India visit: What he discussed, what he missed? 

Though PM Deuba urged his Indian counterpart to resolve the boundary issue and provide air entry route for Bhairahawa airport, these issues are conspicuously absent in the statements released by India's Ministry of External Affairs.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba (L) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold talks in New Delhi. (Photo: Indian Ministry of External Affairs)

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba returned home Sunday evening after wrapping up his three-day official visit to India.  It was his first visit to India after assuming office in July, 2021. During the visit, Deuba met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and other Indian officials. He also visited the headquarters of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and met BJP president JP Nadda and other leaders. On Sunday, Deuba flew to Varanasi of Uttar Pradesh, where he was greeted by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport.

 He was expected to raise a number of pressing issues particularly boundary issues in the Kalapani region, the report of the Eminent Persons Group which the government of India has not yet accepted, the case of the death of Jaya Singh Dhami, obtaining air routes for the operation of Bhairahawa International Airport, unilateral construction of dams, embankments, and other structures by the Indian side which has resulted in floods and inundations in Nepali side among others. He was also expected to talk to the Indian side about millions of demonetized Indian currency which are rotting away in the central bank of Nepal for over half a decade, apart from a huge trade deficit with India.

What PM Deuba said

Though the statements issued by the Ministry of External Affairs of India do not mention it anywhere, PM Deuba raised some of the above issues with his Indian counterpart. During a joint press meet between Deuba and Modi on Saturday, PM Deuba said that he discussed the air entry routes through Nepalgunj, Janakpur and Mahendranagar and also about air entry routes for the operation of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa.  According to Deuba he also discussed revising the transit treaty. 

According to Deuba, he raised boundary issues related to the Kalapani region. “We discussed the boundary issue and I urged Modiji to resolve it through the establishment of a bilateral mechanism,” said Deuba in the joint press meet in New Delhi.

What India says

Statements issued by the Ministry of External Affairs of India, however, do not mention air routes and boundary issues.  According to the statements issued by MEA, the launch and operationalization of 35 km long cross border rail link from Jaynagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Nepal was accomplished and the 90 km long 132 KV Solu Corridor transmission line built with Indian Line of Credit at a cost of INR 200 crore was inaugurated. 

Documents exchanged include International Solar Alliance Framework Agreement handover by Nepal, MoU on enhancing Technical Cooperation in the Railway Sector, Agreement on Supply of Petroleum Products between Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and Agreement for sharing of Technical Expertise between IOC and NOC. Apart from this, a joint vision statement on India-Nepal power sector cooperation was also announced. 

According to the joint vision statement, both the PMs agreed that there are unprecedented opportunities for expanding and further strengthening mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in the power sector including (a) joint development of power generation projects in Nepal, (b) development of cross-border transmission infrastructure, (c) bi-directional power trade with appropriate access to electricity markets in both countries based on mutual benefits, market demand and applicable domestic regulations of each country, (d) coordinated operation of the national grids and (e) institutional cooperation in sharing latest operational information, technology and know-how.

They also agreed to expand cooperation to include their partner countries under the BBIN framework subject to mutually agreed terms and conditions between all involved parties. Besides, Nepal also invited Indian companies to invest in the development, construction and operation of viable renewable power projects, including in the hydropower sector in Nepal. According to the statement, recognizing the immense benefits of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose project for the people of both countries, two PMs directed their concerned officials to expedite the bilateral discussions toward the early finalization of the project’s DPR.

 What was left out? 

Back home, there was an expectation that there would be some progress regarding talks on making the Indian side accept the report of the Eminent Persons Group. The EPG report, which according to the experts involved in drafting have recommendations for resolving nearly all the outstanding issues including the border dispute between the two countries, is gathering dust due to the reluctance of the Indian side to accept it.  This issue was left untouched during the visit. 

Besides, PM Deuba was also expected to talk about the case of death of Jaya Singh Dhami, which he  is not found to have done. Apart from this, he was also expected to talk to the Indian side about millions of demonetized Indian currency which are rotting away in the central bank of Nepal for over half a decade. 

These issues did not feature in the joint press meet speech of PM Deuba nor have they been mentioned in the statements issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.