India’s field office ‘to close’

- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 20, 2018-

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that the field office of the Indian Embassy in Biratnagar will be removed in the near future. Addressing the first parliamentary party meeting of the Nepal Communist Party on Saturday, NCP Co-chairman Oli said the office would be removed as it had outlived its purpose.

Nepal had permitted India to set up a temporary field office in Biratnagar in 2008, to issue passes for vehicles to ply Indian roads in the bordering regions after Koshi floods severely damaged a 17 km stretch of the East-West highway. The office set up in Sunsari initially was later shifted to Biratnagar. Currently, it is located at Malaya Road on the Koshi Highway.

After repair of the damaged portion of highway, the Nepali side informally asked India to remove Biratnagar office but the Indian side did not comply. Instead, the Indian flag was hoisted on the office building while India started distributing scholarships and got involved in various social activities using the facility.

The government had tried to remove the field office six years ago when Narayan Kaji Shrestha was the foreign minister. In 2011, then Baburam Bhattarai-led government dispatched two diplomatic notes to New Delhi seeking immediately removal of the office, to no avail.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had communicated to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu about the need to review existence of the office in the wake of security vulnerabilities and diplomatic sensibilities. Brushing off the suggestions, India in 2014 sought the government’s permission to establish a Consulate General Office in Biratnagar by upgrading the field office.

“The PM’s statement suggests that there is no need for such field offices in a small country,” CPN leader Janardan Sharma told the Post, about the office established in a crisis situation then. Sharma argued that existence of the Indian Embassy in the Capital would be sufficient to carry out diplomatic activities.

Ahead of the PM’s visit to India in April, former prime minister and Naya Shakti Party Nepal coordinator Baburam Bhattarai had asked Oli to raise the issue during his official talks in New Delhi.

Published: 20-05-2018 08:05

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