All planned bilateral meetings with India, including the meeting of Eminent Persons Group, have stalled until the elections and are likely to resume only after the formation of a new government.
Many of these meetings were due to take place in India, but the elections code of conduct prohibits government officials from making foreign trips to attend bilateral events, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry said.
Nepal has the highest number of bilateral engagements with India. Their outcomes and progress achieved so far could be affected with the deferral of scheduled meetings between the two governments.
The official at the Foreign Ministry said Nepal and India had various issues at hand that needed to be dealt with, including hydro electricity projects, matters related to trade and transit, and affairs of commerce and supplies.
Whatever progress and decisions that could have been made on these areas have stalled for now as Nepal is gearing up to conduct the elections of provincial assembly and federal parliament.
How things are going to pan out we will see after the elections are over, the official said.
While the sixth EPG meeting, which was scheduled to convene in New Delhi on Saturday, was deferred at India’s request, owing to health issue of Jayant Prasad, India’s key EPG member and former Indian ambassador to Nepal, the other meetings were put off because of Nepal elections.
Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, the coordinator of EPG form the Nepali side, said the Indian side postponed the meeting after Prasad suffered a health complication. The meeting was going to be deferred anyway due to the elections in the country, he added. One of Nepal’s EPG members, Rajan Bhattarai, is also contesting in the upcoming elections.
The sixth EPG meeting was due to prepare the first draft report on the status of Nepal-India ties and suggest a new road map. It is important that all EPG members are present at the meeting as it is expected to set the tone for future ties between Nepal and India and suggest revisions in the existing bilateral treaties, Thapa said. An official privy to the communications between the two countries told the Post that the sixth EPG meeting would likely take place in the first week of January 2018.
The first report of the EPG is expected to come out in July.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the other key Nepal-India bilateral exchanges that got pushed back due to the elections in Nepal are secretarial-level meeting of Inter-government Committee on resolving issues related to trade and transit, and the meeting of Joint Committee on Water Resources.