The relationship between Nepal and India has always been complex. Despite deep cultural ties and geographical proximity, there are a number of underlying issues that have hindered the strengthening of this relationship. One such issue is border disputes in Nepal’s western frontier with India. It is crucial for both countries to seize the opportunity presented by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is embarking on a four-day official visit to India on Wednesday, to address the long-standing border disputes, particularly those involving Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura. The border disputes have been a sore point in Nepal-India relations for decades. The control of these Nepali territories by India has been a source of contention, leading to strained relations between the two countries. It is imperative that both sides approach these disputes with sincerity and a genuine desire to find a mutually acceptable solution. These disputes, including that of the Susta area in Nawalparasi, are not merely territorial issues; they represent the aspirations and national identity of the Nepali people. They must be addressed in a manner that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal. It is crucial not to let these disputes fester any longer under the guise of diplomatic niceties, although, of course, their resolution may involve painful and lengthy negotiations.
Ever since the fresh dispute over Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh surfaced in 2020, there has not been any meaningful talks between the two countries to resolve the issue. India’s ‘big brother attitude’ to refuse to even sit for talks on the issue is partly to be blamed for this. This long-standing border dispute has also harmed the prospect to engage beneficial cooperation in other areas. As the countries that are interdependent on each other on so many areas, this situation is certainly not in the interest of both Nepal and India. As a newspaper, we urged both the countries to seize the visit of Prime Minister Dahal to India as an opportunity to reignite discussions on the boundary disputes. While it may be a time-consuming process, the establishment of a framework for dialogue and the initiation of concrete steps towards resolving the issue would be a significant achievement. This could include the revival of the long-pending meeting of the Boundary Working Group, which would address technical tasks such as installing boundary pillars and maintaining the border and Foreign Secretary-level bilateral mechanism that is mandated to discuss this issue.
As Prime Minister Dahal engages in talks with his Indian counterpart and various dignitaries, it is important for both the countries to foster an atmosphere of trust, openness, and understanding. Genuine efforts should be made to bridge the gaps that have hindered the progress of bilateral relations. This visit should serve as a turning point in Nepal-India relations, marking the beginning of a new era of cooperation, understanding, and shared prosperity.
Another crucial aspect to consider during the visit is the Eminent Persons' Group (EPG) report on Nepal-India relations. This joint report, prepared in 2018, provides a blueprint for strengthening bilateral ties. It is essential that the report is received and given due consideration by the heads of the government of both the countries. The recommendations put forth in the report could serve as a guide for addressing not only the boundary dispute but also other areas of cooperation and collaboration. In addition to resolving the outstanding issues, the visit presents an opportunity for Nepal and India to enhance economic cooperation. Agreements on long-term energy exports, cross-border energy cooperation, and bilateral trade will be crucial for both countries. Such agreements would not only contribute to economic growth but also strengthen the overall relationship between the two countries. India, as the fifth largest economy in the world, must be willing to show magnanimity to help address the widening trade deficit of Nepal, which imports more than two-third of its overall imports from India.
Nepal and India are geographically and culturally close but have been distant in many aspects. It is crucial to approach the upcoming visit with a spirit of openness, cooperation, and goodwill. Both Nepal and India should be willing to address the concerns and aspirations of each other in a constructive and mutually beneficial manner. This visit should not be seen as a mere formality but rather as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a stronger and more harmonious future. As Prime Minister Dahal engages in talks with his Indian counterpart and various dignitaries, it is important for both the countries to foster an atmosphere of trust, openness, and understanding. Genuine efforts should be made to bridge the gaps that have hindered the progress of bilateral relations. This visit should serve as a turning point in Nepal-India relations, marking the beginning of a new era of cooperation, understanding, and shared prosperity. As a newspaper, we urge both Nepal and India to utilize the visit of Prime Minister Dahal as an opportunity to resolve the pending issues, particularly the long-standing border disputes and build trust to strengthen bilateral relations. This will pave the way for a brighter and more prosperous future, characterized by a deepened friendship and cooperation between the two nations.