KATHMANDU, Dec 3: India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday argued that India and Nepal have decided "to move ahead" although the relationship between the two countries reached its lowest point throughout the year particularly over boundary issues.
In an interview with India's The Hindu, Jaishankar clearly indicated that back-to-back visits from India to Nepal in recent weeks were aimed at normalizing ties with Nepal.
"Since your questions focused on Nepal, I would say, yes, there was a period where we had issues, but I think we can clearly see in the last few weeks India and Nepal have decided [to move ahead] and it’s something mutual," the Indian External Affairs minister said a week after his Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Nepal.
Although Shringla's visit did not exactly bring concrete outcomes on matters of boundary, the two countries agreed to settle it and experts have taken it as a positive development in India-Nepal relations. Jaishankar's latest statement also echoes that.
With India's top diplomat visiting Nepal, mechanisms of bilateral cooperation between the two countries including the Border Working Group at the Joint Secretary level are expected to take place soon.
A foreign ministerial-level joint commission meeting is also being planned to be held in New Delhi in the mid of December—most likely on December 15 and 16.
Back to back visits from India and upcoming joint commission meeting to be co-chaired by Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his counterpart Jaishankar is expected to fully normalize bilateral ties that reached its new low after India unveiled its new political map incorporating Nepali territories Kalapani and Limpiyadhura inside Indian borders in November last year. Subsequently, Nepal opposed it and asked India to hold talks on the matter. However, India kept rejecting Nepal's offer for talks citing the COVID-19 pandemic although it was holding bilateral talks with other countries including neighboring China over boundary matters.
The relationship between the two countries further soured as India's Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a strategic road link to Tibetan Autonomous Region of China via Lipu Lekh, a sovereign Nepal territory located on the South Western frontier with China, in May first week.
This time also Nepal strongly protested and asked India to sit for dialogue. Yet again, India remained adamant on holding talks with Nepal over boundary issues. Amid Indian reluctance, Nepal issued a new political map incorporating Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipu Lekh within Nepali borders. India opposed Nepal's move to issue the map while rejecting Nepal's offer for holding talks.
Amid frosty ties over boundary issues, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli telephoned his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to extend greetings on the occasion of Indian Independence Day on August 15, during which, the two heads of government also discussed ways to mend ties.
Accordingly, India's external intelligence agency chief Samant Goel visited Nepal in the last week of October, and it was followed by the visit of Indian Army Chief M.M. Naravane in the first week of November, barely a week later.