Kathmandu, June 28 (IANS) Despite the dip in bilateral relations — particularly in the wake of a prolonged border blockade till only five months ago, Nepal’s decision to recall its envoy and cancellation of the President’s visit, bilateral engagements and planned meetings with India remain on track.
After the deterioration in ties since September last year, when India expressed its unhappiness with the new Nepali Constitution promulgated on September 20, bilateral relations were steadily improving till the K.P. Sharma Oli government abruptly cancelled President Bidhya Bhandari’s visit to India at the last moment.
The perception within the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) that Delhi made a failed bid to topple the Left-led regime in Kathmandu has not resulted in the ruling coalition cancelling bilateral consultations.
Officials said that at least one dozen meetings between Nepal and India will be completed ahead of the planned fourth meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission at the Foreign Minister’s level scheduled to take place in New Delhi after mid-August.
The Joint Commission is the highest-level mechanism between Nepal and India that is mandated to review the entire gamut of bilateral relations between the two neighbours.
Meetings at the Energy Secretary- and Commerce Secretary-level are taking place in New Delhi from Tuesday on the two key driving issues between Nepal and India.
In the Energy Secretary-level meeting, India has pledged to supply additional 120 MW electricity to Nepal through the Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar trans-border transmission line — in this regard, India has called on Nepal to complete the construction of a sub-station at Dhalkebar at the earliest.
During a meeting of the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) in New Delhi, which began on Monday, the Indian side accepted the request from the Nepali side to export more electricity to Nepal.
The Nepal-India Commerce Secretary-level meeting kicked off in New Delhi on Tuesday with bilateral trade-related matters prominent on the agenda, tweeted Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Trade, construction of integrated check posts on the Nepal-India border, expansion of Indian rail up to the Nepal border, and banking facilities to Nepali nationals working in India, among others, are on the agenda of the meeting.
According to Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae, the visits of Nepali President Bidhya Bhandari to India and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee to Nepal are on the cards and these will improve bilateral ties.
Senior officials from the ministries of Water Resources held a meeting in New Delhi in May-end to discuss issues including the proposed Koshi High Dam project, inundation in bordering areas in the Nepali Terai due to building of embankments on the Indian side and compensation for the Koshi- and Gandak-affected victims.
Last week, Surveyors General from Nepal and India also held a meeting and decided to install GPS in all 8,000 Nepal-India border pillars and decided to clear the No-Man’s land of all encroachments.
Earlier this month, another meeting that deals with procurement of arms and ammunition from India, which was postponed during the economic blockade, also took place in New Delhi.
Officials from Indian Oil Corporation and Nepal Oil Corporation also met in New Delhi early this month to expedite the construction of the cross-border petroleum pipeline between Nepal and India.
On Friday, Nepal started importing goods form Visakhapatnam port, the second sea port Nepal is using after Kolkata.
Another key matter in Nepal-India ties, formation of the Eminent Persons’ Group that is mandated to review bilateral ties in totality, is also meeting in Kathmandu next week.
Diplomatic sources said the Home Secretary-level meeting is also planned in Kathmandu for early August.
(Anil Giri can be reached at email@example.com)