India to wind up ‘unauthorized’ camp office in Biratnagar

Published On: May 23, 2018 08:02 AM NPT By: Kosh Raj Koirala  | @KoshRKoirala

KATHMANDU, May 23: After years-long refusal to comply with  repeated diplomatic correspondence from Nepali authorities, the Indian government has finally decided to shut its “unauthorized” camp office in Biratnagar.

India’s External Affairs Ministry on Monday announced it is winding up the camp office of the Indian embassy  as the purpose for which the facility was established has 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 .

India had opened a camp office in Sunsari district in 2008 at the request of the Nepalese side 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 plying on Indian roads in the bordering region, outlived its utility after the Nepalese side  repaired the damaged stretch of the highway . But as the Indian side unilaterally relocated it to Biratnagar even though the purpose of the office was already 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 the repeated calls  and also lobbied with a section of the Nepalese political leadership to upgrade the facility into a consulate . The field office courted serious controversy in Nepalese political circles after it began engaging in various activities including scholarship distributions and even in gathering intelligence. 

As the facility was widely seen as infringing on Nepal’s sovereignty, the then Baburam Bhattarai government in 2011 forwarded two diplomatic notes to New Delhi seeking removal of the facility.  

Former foreign minister Shrestha said the Indian move was a historic victory for a patriotic stand. Taking to  twitter on Tuesday, Shrestha also congratulated Prime Minister KP Oli over the matter. 

Leaders close to Oli said the prime minister had raised the issue during the one-on-one  with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his state visit to India last month. Oli had identified the unauthorized camp office as one of the outstanding bilateral issues that needed to be resolved  between the two countries. 

“It appears that India is keen to resolve the outstanding issues it has with Nepal. As the political reality in Nepal has  changed with the country embracing a federal structure, the Indian side seems cognizant of this fact,” said a former Nepalese diplomat, preferring not to be named. 

Indian External Ministry Spokesperson Kumar said that Prime Minister Modi during his visit to Nepal last week conveyed the decision to Oli. Earlier, addressing a parliamentary party meeting of the newly-formed Nepal Communist Party (NCP) on Saturday, Prime Minister Oli had announced that the authorized office would be removed soon.

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