The Biratnagar-based camp office of the Indian embassy in this recent photo. The Indian government has decided to close the office, which was set up after the 2008 Koshi flooding. Photo: Chuman Basnet/Republica
BIRATNAGAR, May 29: A week has passed since the Indian government announced to shut down the Indian embassy’s camp office in Biratnagar but it has made no efforts to do so. Officials at the camp office said they have yet to be officially informed about the closure decision by their government.
“We have learnt from media reports that a decision has been made to close down the camp office as per the high-level political understanding reached between the governments of the two countries. But until we are officially notified by our side about the decision, we cannot just shut down the office and move out on our own,” said an official at the camp office requesting anonymity.
The official however said the office will be closed once it receives instructions from the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
The official also maintained that the office will continue to carry out its regular administrative tasks until it is officially told to shut down.
India’s External Affairs Ministry last Monday announced that it was winding up the camp office of the Indian embassy as the purpose for which the facility was established had already been fulfilled.
“Government of India had already decided to wind up the Camp Office and re-locate the personnel. This decision was conveyed by Prime Minister Modi to his Nepalese counterpart during his visit to Nepal last week,” said official spokesperson of the ministry Raveesh Kumar, while responding to a query from journalists in New Delhi.
However, the Indian side didn’t inform by when it would shut down the camp office. Similarly, the Nepali side has also not followed up on the issue with the Indian government.
India had opened the camp office in Sunsari district in 2008 at the request of the Nepal government to deal with the situation arising out of the devastating Koshi River floods. The camp office facilitated the movement of vehicles across Indian territory to the eastern part of Nepal via Biratnagar as a 17-km stretch of the East-West Highway was severely damaged by the flooding.
The office, which issued passes to vehicles for using the Indian roads in the bordering region, outlived its utility after the Nepali side repaired the damaged stretch of the highway. But as the Indian side unilaterally relocated the office to Biratnagar even though the purpose of the office had already been fulfilled, then foreign minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha had engaged in diplomatic correspondence with the Indian side to close down the office. The Indian side, however, ignored Nepal’s repeated calls and also lobbied with a section of Nepali political leadership to upgrade the facility into a consulate.
The field office courted serious controversy in Nepali political circles after it began engaging in various activities including scholarship distribution and even intelligence gathering. As the facility was widely seen as infringing on Nepal’s sovereignty, the then Baburam Bhattarai government in 2011 had forwarded two diplomatic notes to New Delhi seeking removal of the facility.