The Biratnagar-based camp office of the Indian embassy in this recent photo. Photo: Chuman Basnet/Republica
KATHMANDU, July 24: As announced earlier in May, India has decided to wind up “unauthorized” camp office in Biratnagar with effect from August 1. This comes after years-long refusal of Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to comply with repeated diplomatic correspondence from Nepali authorities to shut down the office.
Issuing a press statement on Tuesday, the embassy said that all services including the issuance of motor vehicle permits, registration certificates for Indian nationals, attestation of documents and miscellaneous services (birth/death registrations) being provided by the Embassy of India Camp Office, Biratnagar will cease with effect from August 1, 2018.
The statement has advised all Indian nationals to contact the Indian embassy in Kathmandu directly for any services after the closure of the camp office.
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 to use 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 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 had snubbed 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 the Nepali 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 upon Nepal’s sovereignty, the then Baburam Bhattarai-led government in 2011 forwarded two diplomatic notes to New Delhi, seeking immediate closure of the office. But there was no response from India to Nepal’s request. Many in Nepal have described this recent gesture of India as an attempt to improve the relations that reached a historic low during the premiership of KP Oli in his previous stint.
The development, according to leaders close to Oli, comes after the prime minister in his recent visit to New Delhi raised the issue during his one-on-one with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi. Oli had identified the unauthorized camp office as one of the outstanding bilateral issues that needed to be resolved between the two countries.
Earlier on May 23, India’s External Affairs Ministry had announced to wind up the camp, although without giving any specific date. The ministry’s official spokesperson in response to a query of journalist informed that Indian Prime Minister Modi had conveyed to Prime Minister Oli during the former’s Nepal visit about the decision to close the office and re-locate the personnel.