Nepal-India panel meet finalises five issues for discussion

Kathmandu, July 6 (IANS) The first meeting of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) comprising diplomats from both Nepal and India has finalised for future discussions five issues, including the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed between the two neighbours — often termed by Nepal as “mother of all treaties” with India

The five issues finalised for future discussions by the two-day meeting here of the Eminent Persons Group-Nepal-India Relations (EPG-NIR) include bilateral political ties, government-to-government relations, economic exchanges, developmental cooperation and social and cultural aspects of the India-Nepal relations.

On Tuesday, the eight-member EPG-NIR, which comprises four members from each country, agreed to review all aspects of bilateral ties, said Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, EPG co-chair from the Nepal side.

He said the panel will examine bilateral treaties and agreements, and memorandums of understanding signed following the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 — which Nepal calls “mother of all treaties” with India.

All agreements of political nature, including the 1950 treaty, will be reviewed under the political cluster.

All trade- and transit-related deals, including the recent Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, will be placed under the economic cluster.

Understandings on Nepal-India developmental assistance and other financial support will be observed under the category of developmental cooperation.

“We have not excluded any deal that the two countries signed after 1950,” Thapa said after Tuesday’s meeting.

While a review of all bilateral treaties was the prime agenda of Nepal, the Indian side was keen to chart out the future course of cooperation in various sectors, including economic, connectivity, infrastructure, trade and commerce, among others.

Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa on Monday inaugurated the maiden two-day meeting of the EPG-NIR here and sought suitable changes in key bilateral treaties and agreements in light of the changed global situation.

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 meeting was expected to set the agenda, timeline and code for EPG-NIR members and the working modality during its closed-door session.

The EPG-NIR, however, will not review the relevance of a tripartite Nepal-Britain-India security agreement of 1947 that ensured continuation of recruitment of Nepali youth in British and Indian armies.

Bharatiya Janata Party’s Lok Sabha member and EPG co-chair from India Bhagat Singh Koshyari said both sides agreed to come up with a comprehensive, acceptable, pragmatic and implementable recommendation on how to improve the Nepal-India ties in the changed context of the 21st century.

He said the recent misunderstanding between Nepal and India was temporary and expressed confidence that all misgivings would be resolved soon.

Another Indian EPG member Mahendra P. Lama said they will come up with a common document that will reflect the aspirations of the people of India and Nepal.

Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayanta Prasad said the EPG should focus on bilateral connectivity, development cooperation, trade and commerce, energy and information and communication.

“We should increase cooperation and friendship based on people-to-people relations,” said Prasad.

It was also decided to hold the next meeting in India after three months.

The Nepali EPG members are former Foreign Minister Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former Chief Commissioner of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority Surya Nath Upadhyay, former Law Minister Nilambar Acharya and Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist lawmaker Rajan Bhattarai.

The Indian EPG members are senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Bhagat Singh Koshyari, former Sikkim University Vice Chancellor Mahendra Lama, former Indian Ambassador to Nepal Jayant Prasad and VIF senior fellow B.C. Upreti.

(Anil Giri can be contacted at girianil@gmail.com)

–IANS

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