EPG meeting slated for June in Kathmandu

- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Devendra Bhattarai, NEW DELHI

May 29, 2016-

The first joint meeting of Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG), a bilateral committee formed to review the agreements and treaties between Nepal and India including the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, will take place in the last week of June.

The Indian side has proposed to hold the meeting on June 26-27 in Kathmandu. Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, an EPG member from the Indian side, confirmed the decision. An Indian official said that New Delhi was ready to discuss any issue that the Nepali side presents in the meeting.

The meeting is scheduled at a time when Nepal-India relations have soured due to the abrupt cancellation of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s visit to India in early May. The meeting will help build trust between the two sides, said officials.

Both Nepal and India have formed their respective teams and finalised the secretariats and focal persons. The teams have already begun internal works of reviewing the past conventions and treaties. Earlier, the meeting was delayed due to the lack of technical preparations from the Indian side, mainly about its secretariat.

Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa had written to his Indian counterpart to co-chair the first meeting of the joint group in Kathmandu. But in early May Nepali officials told the Post that New Delhi had not responded to the proposal.

The team is tasked with reviewing all the bilateral agreements and making specific suggestions to both the countries. Nepal has been consistently pushing for a review of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, describing it as “unequal”. India, in return, had asked Nepal to come up with a concrete proposal to amend or replace the treaty.

A Nepali member of the EPG said that they want to come out of the framework of Nepal-India relationship set five decades ago. “In the changed context, we want to build relations with India in a new way,” said the member.

Some observers in India, however, question the relevance of the group. They view it as a strategy to postpone problems instead of resolving them. They argue that Nepal and India should hold direct talks to mend the relations.

The decision to form the group was made during the India visit by then prime minister Baburam Bhattarai in 2011. During the late Sushil Koirala’s premiership in 2014, the terms of reference of the EPG were agreed. The incumbent KP Sharma Oli-led government formed the group, which was reciprocated by the Indian government.

Published: 29-05-2016 08:44

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