Nepal, India issues linger as deadline looms

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Sep 13, 2018-

As the September 19 deadline to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues between Nepal and India inches closer, officials have made little progress in resolving some of the more contentious issues facing the two countries.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nepal earlier this year in May, top officials from both countries had agreed to address all unsettled issues by September.

Foreign Ministry officials said the two countries would not be able to resolve every topic within the deadline, even though they have made some progress in addressing issues of trade and connectivity.

However, major issues related to boundaries between the two countries, exchanging banned Indian currency notes parked in various Nepali banks, and granting licences to Nepali gas bullets remain unresolved. Neither Nepali nor Indian officials have explained when some of these issues would be addressed.

Officials from both sides told the Post while there has been some positive momentum towards addressing issues, it was almost impossible to resolve them and provide concrete results within three months.

“It is impossible to reach a consensus on contentious topics, particularly given the history of some of these disputes as well as a large number of projects still under consideration,” said Bhrigu Dhungana, joint secretary at the Foreign Ministry who is in charge of India Desk.  

The Nepali Foreign Ministry official said the two countries have made some progress in addressing the problem of inundation in bordering areas. A joint team comprising officials from Nepal and India visited the areas and presented reports to their respective governments.

A senior official at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said India has worked with Nepali officials to address contentious issues on the border.

“We have shared the draft of movement of bulk cargo from Indian seaports to additional three Nepali border points that would ease importing various industrial raw materials to Nepal,” said the Indian Embassy official.

Nepali and Indian officials have made progress on the issue of amending the transit and transportation agreement while India has expressed readiness to amend the cross-border energy guidelines.

On the issue of connectivity, both sides recently exchanged an MoU on the initial survey of Kathmandu-Raxaul Railway while a team of Nepali officials is heading to India next month for a field visit to study the scope of inland waterways between Nepal and India.

“We have also made progress on partnership in the agriculture sector, especially in organic farming and chemical fertiliser import,” said Dhungana. On the cross-border transmission line, Nepal has expressed its readiness to build its portion of the proposed Butwal-Gorakhpur transmission line, but negotiations will take place this October during the Energy Secretaries’ meeting that would also discuss larger co-operation on energy, power trade, and construction of transmission lines.

The two countries have not made significant progress in finalising the detailed project report (DPR) of Pancheshwar Development Authority that is part of the Mahakali Treaty. There has been no progress on the academy for Nepal Police that India had announced nearly a decade ago.

Both sides are yet to conclude negotiations on the uses of Indian soft loan of US $750 million for post-earthquake reconstruction and the US$ 1 billion line of credit announced during Modi’s visit to Nepal in 2014.

Published: 13-09-2018 07:31

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