The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India, Nepal polish old ties

Kathmandu, Aug. 23: Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha today met the top Nepalese leadership and representatives of all major parties as India underlined its fine-balanced diplomacy that it had no favourites and would deal with the same cordiality with whoever came to power.

The message was re-affirmed during his meeting with King Gyanendra when both agreed “there was no alternative or options for India and Nepal but to have close and strong bilateral relationship”.

At a lunch this afternoon, the Indian foreign minister met leaders of all political parties in the Himalayan country, including the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) Madhav Nepal, widely tipped to be the next Prime Minister. Tomorrow morning he is scheduled to meet the president of the Nepali Congress, Girija Prasad Koirala.

The stress from both India and Nepal was on close cooperation in fighting terrorism. The two sides agreed to upgrade the existing extradition treaty and also have in place an agreement on mutual legal assistance.

They decided to put in place a system for intelligence sharing, with special emphasis on revenue intelligence — an important area considering the growing menace of global terrorism. A Nepalese team is scheduled to arrive in Delhi in September to discuss the draft treaty.

At his meeting with the king, Sinha described Gyanendra’s recent trip to India “as a landmark visit which provided greater understanding between the two countries”. The king had chosen India as his first official destination abroad. The message was not lost on Delhi — that the palace was keen to continue the strong ties the two countries have enjoyed for decades.

Crown prince Paras was called in when Sinha was closeted with the king after the delegations of the two sides had finished interacting and left. Sinha handed over a locket, studded with gemstones, which Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had sent as a gift for the newborn “yuvaraj”, Hridayendra.

At his meetings with Gyanendra, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other senior members of the Nepalese government, Sinha emphasised that the focus must be on aspects common to both sides. Water resources, agriculture and biotechnology were seen as some areas where the two sides could work for mutual benefit.

India reaffirmed its commitment to help Nepal in its fight against the Maoists. Kathmandu also assured it would not allow Nepalese soil to be used by Pakistan’s ISI for anti-Delhi activities.

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