EPG to suggest border regulation measures

- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Oct 9, 2017-The fifth meeting of the bilateral Eminent Persons Group has agreed to recommend regulating the Nepal-India border for controlling illegal activities on both sides without causing inconvenience to general public and travellers.

After presentation from the Indian side on how to control the open border and make it free of illegal and criminal activities, members from the both sides agreed on Sunday to recommend with specific suggestions that the two governments regulate the international border.

The EPG, however, is yet to suggest a modality on what basis the border would be regulated, said a Nepali participant in the meeting.

While regulating the border, people living in bordering areas should not be affected and the spirit of the open border should not be broken, said the official. “But we have to keep the border free from all kinds of illegal, criminal and mischievous activities.”

“The Indian side has already started regulating the border in various ways. We also presented our concerns,” said Bhek Bahadur Thapa, coordinator of the Nepali side on the EPG. Nepal’s representatives are of the view that the border is not open as envisaged by the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 as India has regulated it by deploying a border security force and setting up immigration offices.

In a new arrangement, Nepalis travelling to India or Indians travelling to Nepal will be required to carry valid identity cards like passport and citizenship, as in the case of people travelling to either country by air at present, said a member of the Nepali delegation. 

The next meeting of the EPG to be held in New Delhi would work further on the issue and suggest a mechanism to enforce the recommended measures.

The two-day meeting also discussed issues related to the border dispute between the two countries, security, the 1950 Treaty, cooperation in the field of water resources, bilateral mechanisms, and trade and transit.

Thapa told a press meet organised on conclusion of the meeting, “The 1950 Treaty should not have status quo. We will unanimously recommend it when we prepare the final report,” said. He, however, did not clarify whether they will recommend an amendment to the treaty or its abrogation. A member on the Indian side said New Delhi was ready to review and amend the treaty but it was up to Nepal to come up with a clear position.

Mainly, the EPG is discussing Articles 2, 5, 6 and 7 of the Treaty which are related to security, foreign affairs, water resources and equal treatment for citizens of both the countries.

“We have presented clause-wise inputs on how the treaty should be amended. The Indian side has come up with broader perspectives on the treaty. Now, time has come to hold discussion on specific clauses and reach a consensus,” said an EPG member.

On the issue of sharing of water resources between the two countries, EPG member Surya Nath Upadhyay said, “Instead of divulging on specific projects, we are for reviewing the past policy and preparing a comprehensive policy aimed at future.”

Though there are no big issues related to transit right of the land-locked Nepal, there are several trade-related issues between the two countries. “There are a lot of bottlenecks in bilateral trade. We are discussing the issues,” said EPG member Rajan Bhattarai. 

After two days of intensive discussion on all issues, members from the Nepali side organised a press conference to present the outcome of the meeting. Members from the Indian side, however, refused to join the event arguing that it would be unwise to divulge details when discussions are underway on all bilateral issues. The Indian side wants to keep the matters of discussion under wraps until the EPG submits its report possibly in March.

Published: 09-10-2017 07:31

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