By Modnath Dhakal
Kathmandu, Jan. 14: Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali is leaving for New Delhi on Thursday on a three-day visit for the sixth meeting of Nepal-India Joint Commission.
This is the first top-level visit from Nepal to India since the bilateral ties hit the rock bottom following the border dispute in the Kalapani region after India unilaterally constructed a road connecting Pithoragadh to Lipulek, a Nepal-China border point, via Nepali territory in May 2020.
“The Joint Commission Meeting will discuss Nepal-India bilateral relations, including trade, transit, energy, boundary, COVID-19 cooperation, infrastructure, connectivity, investment, agriculture, tourism, culture, among others,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said.
Gyawali had been saying that the constraints in bilateral relations between the two neighbours should be and would be resolved through dialogue. In an interview with The Rising Nepal in June last year, he had said that the government was ready for talks with India at any level.
His visit is happening after multiple high-level visits from the South. Foreign Affairs Department Chief of the ruling Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Vijay Chauthaiwale had come to Nepal in December 2020 and called on Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and other leaders.
Earlier, in November Foreign Secretary of India Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Nepal to participate in Nepal-India Foreign Secretary Level Meeting which had discussed about completing the remaining boundary work.
Even earlier, Indian intelligence agency RAW chief Samant Kumar Goel had arrived in Nepal as a special envoy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In December the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) meeting on Nepal-India Cooperation in Power Sector had agreed to finalise the regulatory modality to allow Nepali power producers’ access to Indian energy market.
These visits and meetings had not only brought the disturbed ties between the two neighbours back on track but also created grounds for greater cooperation and further dialogue.
While in New Delhi, the Foreign Minister will also meet with the high level dignitaries of India. The Nepali delegation will consist of the Ambassador of Nepal to India, Foreign Secretary, Health Secretary, and other senior officials of the government.
It is said that the meeting would be instrumental about procuring COVID-19 vaccines as well.
Although preparations for the meeting were made for the last couple of months, it is happening at a time when the House of Representatives is dissolved and internal politics is turbulent which has given impetus to fear in the civil society.
A group of 15 civil society members, including former Ambassador to Russia Hiranya Lal Shrestha, China Lila Mani Poudyal, Former Chief Secretary Dr. Som Lal Subedi, Former Governor of the Nepal Rastra Bank Dipendra Bahadur Kshetri, Infrastructure Expert Dr. Surya Raj Acharya, former secretaries Krishna Gyawali, Sharada Prasad Trital and Former Ambassador to Malaysia Dr. Rishi Adhikari, said in a statement on Wednesday that the visit was imperative for the COVID-19 vaccines, improving bilateral ties and bilateral talks.
However, they asked Minister Gyawali and the government to maintain caution as the southern neighbour had tried to take advantage of the difficult situation in Nepal in signing agreements that were not in Nepal’s interest.
They suggested not to sign any agreement that is beneficial in the short term but could be detrimental for the country in the long run.
Minister Gyawali is scheduled to return to Nepal on Saturday, 16 January.
– The Rising Nepal