Nepal says boundary talks with India through establishment mechanism

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Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Sunday returned home after wrapping up his three-day visit to India. Deuba, along with his wife Arzu Rana, and others, had visited Varanasi, worshipped in different temples there, and also held talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the boundary issue.

Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka said the boundary dispute between Nepal and India would be resolved through diplomacy and established mechanisms.

The bilateral ties between Kathmandu and New Delhi witnessed some tension after Nepal unveiled a new political map incorporating some disputed land currently occupied by India.

Nepal and India have two separate bilateral mechanisms to deal with boundary issues.

Deuba and Modi had held talks at Hyderabad House on Saturday and discussed a wide range of issues.

While addressing the joint conference after the delegation-level talks, Deuba said that he had raised the boundary issue with Modi.

“We discussed the boundary matters and I urged him (Modi) to resolve them through established mechanisms,” said Deuba.

Modi, however, made no mention of boundary matters while addressing the press conference. The Eminent Persons Group report also did not figure in the talks, officials said.

Though the row over the Kalapani region is decades old, it emerged as a big issue in November 2019 when New Delhi showed it within the Indian territory in its new map. The then KP Sharma Oli government objected to the Indian move but talks at the diplomatic level could not take place. In May 2020, the Oli government, in response to India’s inauguration of a road link via Lipulekh to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, unveiled Nepal’s new map showing the Kalapani region within the Nepali territory.

After the delegation-level talks between Deuba and Modi, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that there was a general understanding on resolving the boundary issue.

Addressing a press conference, Shringla said that the issue was “briefly discussed”.

“There was a general understanding that both sides needed to address this in a responsible manner through discussions and dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly relations,” said Shringla.

“Politicisation of such issues needs to be avoided.”

But an Indian statement issued after Deuba-Modi talks, however, is silent on the boundary issue.

After the bilateral meetings, the agreements were signed in the presence of the Prime Ministers.

This was Prime Minister Deuba’s first official foreign trip in his fifth term as prime minister.

He had had flown to India leading a 50-member Nepali delegation at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on April 1.

Meanwhile, his visit to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters has created a controversy in Nepal. On this, Khadka has clarified that Deuba went there “not as the Prime Minister but as the President of the Nepali Congress”.

Speaking to journalists at the Tribhuvan International Airport here on Sunday evening upon his arrival, Khadka claimed that it was not undiplomatic for Prime Minister Deuba, as the President of the Nepali Congress, to visit the BJP office.

Deuba was criticised for visiting the BJP headquarters, with some calling it as against diplomatic dignity.

However, Khadka said the visit was aimed to strengthen the relationship between the Nepali Congress and the BJP.

During his visit to New Delhi, Nepal and India signed four different agreements, including the International Solar Alliance between Nepal and India, technical assistance related to railways, supply of petroleum products and technical expertise between Nepal Oil Corporation and Indian Oil Corporation.

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