Nepali Premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" on Thursday spared Prime Minister Narendra Modi the embarrassment of publicly reckoning with the dismay in Nepal over the Akhand Bharat mural in the new Parliament building which presents Kapilavastu, Biratnagar and Lumbini as part of the India map.
At least two former Prime Ministers of Nepal — Baburam Bhattarai and K.P. Sharma Oli — have spoken out against the Akhand Bharat mural in the new Parliament building and underscored the need for Prachanda to raise this with Modi during his visit.
"The controversial mural of ‘Akhand Bharat’ in the recently inaugurated new Parliament building of India may stoke an unnecessary and harmful diplomatic row in the neighborhood including Nepal. It has the potential of further aggravating the trust deficit already vitiating the bilateral relations between most of the immediate neighbours of India," tweeted Bhattarai.
Oli was quoted by The Kathmandu Post as stating that the installation of the Akhand Bharat mural in the Indian Parliament was not fair and demanding that Prachanda speak to Modi on this.
However, when asked if the matter had been raised, foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told reporters that this was not broached during the restricted-level talks and delegation-level talks "to the best of my understanding". Prachanda did not mention it too in his media statement after the bilateral engagement.
From the foreign secretary’s briefing on the meeting, it would appear that Prachanda did not raise any of the issues that Nepal sees as irritants in the bilateral relationship. This includes Gorkha recruitment for the Indian military’s short-term enlistment scheme Agnipath, the report of the Eminent Persons Group and the related review of the 1950 India-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty.
Nepal has for months now been waiting for India to officially accept the report of the Eminent Persons Group, set up to update the bilateral relationship after the two countries agreed to review the 1950 treaty during Modi's first visit to the country in 2014.
The one contentious matter that Prachanda did raise publicly pertained to the boundary issue but his formulation was something that India is comfortable with as it was a climbdown from the position taken by his predecessors.
In his media statement, Prachanda said: "Prime Minister Modiji and I discussed the boundary matters. I urged Prime Minister Modiji to resolve the boundary matters through the established bilateral diplomatic mechanisms."