KATHMANDU, Jan 2: As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi renewed his ‘neighborhood first’ policy on the first day of New Year 2020 by making telephone calls to his counterparts in the neighboring countries including Nepal, there are high hopes that the irritants that exist between Nepal and India including border issues would be resolved in the new year.
The phone call by Indian Prime Minister Modi to his Nepali counterpart KP Oli on Wednesday morning comes in the wake of Nepal looking for starting a fresh diplomatic negotiation to settle the border issues surrounding Kalapani and other areas with India.
Prime Minister Oli in a tweet said they during the phone conversation shared that the year 2019 proved to be a successful year in elevating bilateral ties to a new height. Prime Minister Oli said he expressed confidence that the year 2020 will be equally successful in taking Nepal-India relations to the next level by resolving the pending issues.
Analysts say the New Year pleasantry reflects Prime Minister Modi’s desire to keep the Nepal-India relations free from any kinds of irritants.
During the phone conversation, according to a press statement issued by Press Information Bureau of India, Modi expressed his satisfaction at the progress of India-Nepal relations in 2019, with the completion of several projects including Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline in a record time.
The leaders also agreed for an early inauguration of the Integrated Check Post in Biratnagar and the housing reconstruction project in Nepal through video conference.
Sources said Prime Minister Oli, during the phone conversation on Wednesday, also touched on the border-related issues including Kalapani and expressed Nepal’s desire to resolve them at the earliest.
A report prepared by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) of both the countries that identifies all problems that exist in bilateral relations and recommends measures to resolve them is awaiting Modi’s nod.
Nepal earlier requested India through diplomatic channels for convening the meeting of the foreign secretary-led mechanism in view of mounting public pressure after the newly-released political map of India included Kalapani and other territories belonging to Nepal as per Sugauli Treaty, which defines boundary between Nepal and India, in its side of the border.
Although the Indian side has responded to Nepal to sit for negotiation at a mutually convenient time, no date has been fixed yet. In a recent diplomatic communication, Nepal has proposed to convene the meeting in mid-January—something the Indian side is yet to respond.
Former ambassador and foreign affairs expert Jayaraj Acharya said Prime Minister Modi’s ‘cultural gesture’ is a welcome move as it comes in the wake of Nepal seeking to resolve border issues. “The exchange of new year pleasantry is certainly a good thing. But resolution of border issue is a whole new chapter,” he said.
Acharya said since both the leaders in Nepal and India appear keen to address all the outstanding issues that have acted as irritant factors in the bilateral relations, sustained diplomatic efforts could help to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues including those related to borders. “The border issues can be resolved only through diplomatic channel. But these efforts need to be backed by political leaders,” he said, while adding that the bonhomie between the two leaders could be helpful in this regard.
Apart from Prime Minister Oli, Indian Prime Minister Modi had called King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan, Prime Minister Lyonchhen Lotay Tshering of Bhutan, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldvies and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.