Kathmandu, July 4 (IANS) Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa on Monday inaugurated the first meeting of the Eminent Persons Group-Nepal-India Relations (EPG-NIR) here and sought suitable changes in key bilateral treaties and agreements in the light of the changed global situation.
Thapa, who is also Nepal’s Foreign Affairs Minister, called upon India to be ready to amend key treaties, agreements and arrangements signed by his country and India in the past.
He said the present global order and situation, including Nepal’s and India’s standing in the world, had become different in comparison with that in the 1950s.
“We can’t ignore the changing dynamics of relationship. The treaties, agreements and arrangements that guided our relations in the past may require appropriate revision to deal with the needs of the present times,” Thapa said.
He referred to Nepal’s persistent demand for the replacement of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of the 1950s inked between India and Nepal.
Thapa said new ideas and approaches may be necessary to give bilateral relations a more appropriate course so as to create better understanding and to enhance mutual prosperity, peace and harmony.
It was with these aims that the EPG-NIT was established, he said.
Bhagat Singh Koshyari, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister and co-chair of the EPG-NIR from the Indian side, said India was open to discussion on any proposal that Nepal tables.
“Nepal and India have the same blood group… so there are no differences between the two countries,” he said in his inaugural speech.
Nepal-India ties have witnessed an ebb ever since the promulgation of the new constitution by the Himalayan nation in September last year.
Following an economic blockade on the Nepal-India border and other several ups and downs in bilateral relations, the EPG-NIR was seen as a positive move to repair the strained ties, officials observed.
The setting up of the EPG-NIR was agreed upon during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August 2014. It took over a year to set up the eight-member joint body, which includes four members each from Nepal and India.
The EPG-NIR is mandated to review all bilateral treaties, agreements, and arrangements in totality and propose a new way forward in Nepal-India ties in the changed global context and will forward its recommendations to the two governments.
The comprehensive report will make suggestions on any existing bilateral treaties, agreements and understandings, including the much-hyped Peace and Friendship Treaty, which need to be updated, amended or replaced by new ones.
The first two-day meeting will set the agenda, timeline and code for EPG-NIR members and the working modality in a closed-door session.
The meeting will explore the agenda to be discussed for the next two years, as mandated, and set a time frame for the submission of its final report.
Likewise, a code for group members is also to be finalised: Whether the members will be allowed to make public statement or write opinion or deliver speeches on bilateral issues.
Though the EPG-NIR is mandated to table its final report in two years, its members will hold regular exchanges and meetings in their respective capitals and hold interactions with various stakeholders.
Bilateral issues pertaining to political and cultural matters, security, border, trade and transit, social and economic relations, strengthen people-to-people contacts, water resources and modalities for future cooperation will also be discussed by the EPG-NIR.
“This is definitely a positive step for Nepal-India ties, which will give us an opportunity to define what bilateral relations we need in the changed context,” said Rajan Bhattarai, a Nepal team member and member of parliament from the ruling Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist.
Other EPG-NIR members from the Nepal side are former Foreign Minister Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former Chief Commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority Surya Nath Upadhyay, and former Law Minister Nilambar Acharya.
The EPG-NIR members from the Indian side are lawmaker and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Bhagat Singh Koshyari, former Vice Chancellor of Sikkim University Mahendra Lama, former Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayant Prasad and Vivekanand International Foundation senior fellow B.C. Upreti.
(Anil Giri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)