India on Saturday stressed the need to avoid politicising boundary disputes after visiting Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba sought a bilateral mechanism to resolve such outstanding issues between the two countries.
Deuba flagged the boundary dispute in his remarks to the media in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after their bilateral engagement.
“We discussed the boundary issues and I urged Mr Modi to resolve this through the establishment of bilateral mechanism,” he said.
In his statement, Modi had made a reference to the borders to say: “We also discussed today the issue of open borders of India and Nepal being misused by unwanted elements.”
Differences between the two countries over the longstanding boundary issues had escalated during the rule of Deuba’s predecessor K.P. Sharma Oli; resulting in Nepal changing its map in 2020 to include the disputed areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura within its territory.
Asked about Deuba’s remarks regarding the boundary issue, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla told the media that these disputes were discussed briefly. “There was a general understanding that both sides need to address this in a responsible manner through discussion and dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly relations and that politicisation of such issues needed to be avoided.”
As to how the two countries planned to move forward given that Nepal had issued a new map and also amended its constitution to give the changes legal sanctity, Shringla said there were always some outstanding issues between two neighbouring countries.
“What is important is that both can sit down and talk to each other. We have sorted out the land and maritime boundary with Bangladesh. We did that amicably and we had mechanisms for that. With Nepal also, we have several mechanisms to discuss issues that involve both countries.”
Stressing the need for dialogue and discussion in a responsible manner, the foreign secretary added: “We are confident that we will find a way to resolve these issues.”
India and Nepal already have a foreign secretary-level mechanism on the boundary question but it has not met since 2019 after India released a new map showing Kalapani within Indian territory. This new map was issued to factor in the changes made in Jammu and Kashmir, splitting the erstwhile state into two Union Territories.
Nepal had sought a meeting of the foreign secretary-level mechanism but India did not commit to a date. India later used the pandemic as a reason for not holding the meeting, seeing in Oli’s shrill stance an effort to play the nationalism card for political survival.
According to the external affairs ministry, the two Premiers discussed the unprecedented opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation in the energy sector. In this regard, a joint vision statement on power sector cooperation was issued and they jointly inaugurated the 90km 132 KVDC Solu Corridor transmission line and substation built under the Line of Credit extended by India.
Both sides agreed to speed up progress in the implementation of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, beginning with early finalisation of the detailed project report.