It has been almost five months since the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of India has been trying to meet the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to present EPG’s final report. EPGs of both Nepal and India agreed on a single joint report during its ninth meeting on June 30, 2018, in Kathmandu. The EPG was formed following an understanding reached between the two prime ministers and the report was prepared by the members nominated and accepted by both countries. PM Modi must receive the report immediately and both countries should find ways to implement the report soon.
Some Indian newspapers have reported that a section of Indian policymakers are not happy with some of the recommendations included in the report. We believe that it is in the best interest of both the countries to sit down and resolve the differences. Simply ignoring the report won’t help in furthering ties between Nepal and India. Border security, movements across the border and replacing or revising the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty are some of the major issues included in the report. Nepal has long viewed the 1960 treaty as unequal and different Nepali prime ministers have raised the issue with the Indian counterpart in the past. But nothing substantive came out, until the EPG report.
Nepalis have not yet forgotten the 2015 Indian blockade on Nepal, and further delays in receiving the EPG report by Indian PM Modi will only validate India’s big brother attitude. Nepalis living along the border face harassments by the Indian Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB) and land encroachments are rampant. Such issues are expected to be resolved as per the EPG recommendations.
Nepal government says it is hopeful that the Indian side will accept and own up the report. Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota said that if India opted to avoid the report, it would mean trouble in bilateral relations with India. Those are strong words coming from a minister close to PM Oli.
We believe it is in the best interest of Nepal and India to accept EPG’s final report and form a mechanism to implement the recommendations. The joint report was the result of EPG’s nine meetings and exhaustive consultations with the experts on Nepal-India issues. The fact that the two sides agreed on a joint report is remarkable, and it should be a starting point to begin addressing outstanding bilateral issues.