Conflicting claims on talking points during Indian foreign secretary’s Nepal visit

While Nepal side says that additional air entry routes and boundary matters were among the talking points, India has skipped these issues in its official document.

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu:  Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra, who arrived in Kathmandu on invitation his Nepal counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal, has met with nearly all the top political and government leaders—from President Bidya Devi Bhandari to Prime Minister Puhspa Kamal Dahal to Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba to CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli to Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Paudyal.

But India and Nepal have different claims when it comes what was actually discussed during the bilateral discussions. Foreign Ministry of Nepal says that during the meeting between the two secretaries they reviewed various aspects of Nepal-India relations covering connectivity, trade and transit, power sector cooperation, agriculture, education, culture, health sector and people to people relations, among others. “The two sides reviewed with satisfaction the progress made in the connectivity projects such as railways, transmissions lines, bridges and the ICPs. The
Foreign Secretary of Nepal thanked the Government of India for the supply of fertilizers, easing of export restrictions on food grains, and delivery of dialysis machines,” reads the statement issued by Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to Nepal side, the two sides also expressed commitment to allow export of power from Nepal to India on long-term basis utilizing all products of the exchange market.

“The Foreign Secretary of Nepal reiterated the request of the Government of Nepal for additional air-entry routes as well as early concurrence of the near border flight operation of the Gautam Buddha International Airport, Bhairahawa,” according to Nepal side. “The two Foreign Secretaries also discussed the boundary matters. In this regard, they exchanged views on completing the boundary works in the remaining segments through the established bilateral mechanisms.”

Border matters, particularly those related with Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura, and additional air entry routes to Nepal are the major issues that Kathmandu watches with concerns during every visit between the top political and bureaucratic officials between the two countries, whether the meeting takes place in Kathmandu or New Delhi.

While issues related to border have remained a long-standing sticking point between the two countries, with India’s reluctance to provide additional air-entry routes, there is a real risk that Nepal’s Gautam Buddha International Airport, over 70-million-dollar infrastructure project much of it under loans, will turn into a while elephant.

The statement issued by Indian embassy in Kathmandu indicates none of these vitally important points that Nepal side said were discussed.

The talks between the two Foreign Secretaries covered wide ranging discussions on various areas of the multifaceted cooperation between India and Nepal, including development partnership, energy cooperation, trade and economic cooperation, institutional engagements and people to people ties, according to the statement by Indian embassy. According to the statement, they reviewed the progress made in the implementation of the commitments made during the Prime Ministerial visits held last year, including in the areas of cross border connectivity, hydropower cooperation, culture, trade and commerce.

On railway connectivity, both sides agreed for the early completion and operationalization of the remaining sections of the Jaynagar-Kurtha-Bijalpura-Bardibas and the Jogbani-Biratnagar rail links, as well as taking further steps on the proposed Raxaul-Kathmandu rail link, and committed to expediting the procedural requirements, to enable their early implementation, says the statement, while acknowledging that the two sides appreciated the progress made in the energy cooperation wherein Nepal is now able to export 452.6 MW power to India, creating additional sources of revenue for Nepal and energy for India.

According to the statement, Nepali side requested Indian side to explore allowing power export on long term basis. They also requested for utilizing all products of the exchange market in order to further enhance power trade between India and Nepal. “The Indian side took note of both the requests. While reiterating commitment to the full implementation of the Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation agreed between India and Nepal in April 2022, the two Foreign Secretaries agreed to also work together for mutually beneficial cooperation in the sub-regional context,” says the document. “Nepali side also appreciated the special provisions made for Nepal in the export of sugar, wheat and paddy by India, so as to ensure smooth supply of agricultural products to Nepal during the times of global uncertainties.”

[Photo courtesy: Twitter page of Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nepal and Embassy of India in Kathmandu]