New Nepal-India pact on anvil

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Feb 25, 2018-The Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India Relations exchanged the first drafts on Saturday during the seventh meeting that opened in Kathmandu with the anticipation of a new Peace and Friendship Treaty that would reset their bilateral ties thus far based on the 1950 accord.

Both sides agreed to go through their respective reports and come up with a final conclusion on Sunday. The groups will come up with one joint report whose outline and template was discussed on Saturday, said one Nepali participant.

With this new development, it is expected that the next meeting in New Delhi is likely to produce one joint report that will be submitted to both governments before the group’s term expires in July. 

The report outlines what to do next on pressing issues like the 1950 Treaty, trade, commerce, transit, water resources, areas of cooperation, economic assistance and socio-cultural relations, among which is a new blueprint for Nepal-India ties in the changed context.

A Nepali participant told the Post that the EPG members agreed to reach a conclusion on Sunday before wrapping up the meeting. 

Members from both sides will study the draft and table their final inputs on Sunday, said the participant, claiming that no major dispute surfaced during the sixth and seventh meetings held in New Delhi and Kathmandu.

The Nepali participant said, “The tone of the Indian side has dramatically changed after results of Nepal’s elections were announced. This shows hope that one joint report can be prepared without any major dispute.”

Regarding the content, the Nepali participant said the EPG has agreed to recommend replacing the peace and friendship treaty with a new one.

On the issue of security, particularly on purchasing arms from a third country, the Nepali side has proposed that Nepal will only “inform” the Indian side about the deal, but will not take consent as required by the 1950 Treaty and the subsequent letter of exchange. Nepal has been opposing this clause.

Second, in providing equal treatment for citizens of both the countries on various facilities, the Nepali side has proposed favour as laid out in the respective law of the land. 

“As a larger country in terms of population and geography than Nepal, India can afford and provide facilities to Nepali people who are few in number compared to Indian population but we cannot afford,” the official said. So if any Indian national does stay in Nepal, does business or job, he or she should fulfil the requirements set by the Nepali law like possessing Nepali citizenship, among others. Or, both the countries could develop a new law to address this provision. However, the issue of equal treatment for the citizens of another country is not possible in the changed socio-economic realities, the official added.

On the issue of regulation of the open border that is often called a hallmark in bilateral ties, but often creates trouble, the EPG is going to suggest both governments fixing the numbers of entry and exit points at the border so that citizens from both sides are not affected.

This way, officials said the numbers of existing Nepal-India entry and exit points will come down. Apart from fixing the entry and exit points, the EPG is also going to suggest that both governments check and maintain records of people travelling to both sides and make valid identity cards mandatory.

On the issue of water resources, the EGP will strongly suggest completing the projects on time by drawing up a dedicated timetable for all hydroelectric projects.

Though there are other governing laws and legal provisions on trade and commerce issues, another strong recommendation is made on transit facilities that India should provide to landlocked Nepal. It is Nepal’s right to get access to sea port and India should provide unhindered access, the recommendation says.

The EPG report is also going to provide suggestions on other features of bilateral relations in the changed domestic, regional and global contexts. The eighth meeting to be held in New Delhi will prepare the final report to be submitted to both the governments.

Published: 25-02-2018 07:36

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