India, Nepal Agree to Advance Ties as Foreign Secretary Meets Nepalese Top Leadership

PTI, Nov 26, 2020, 8:01 PM IST

India and Nepal on Thursday agreed to step up efforts to advance mutual cooperation as Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla met the country’s top leadership and held “productive” talks with his Nepalese counterpart on a range of bilateral issues. Shringla was accorded a warm welcome on his maiden visit to Nepal at the invitation of Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal, amid a strain in bilateral ties following a bitter border row between the two countries.

He paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli at the latter’s official residence at Baluwatar, according to prime minister’s Press advisor Surya Thapa. Shringla also called on Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and handed over 2,000 vials of anti-virus drug Remdesivir to him as part of India’s continuing assistance to the Himalayan nation to help it contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier, the foreign secretary met his Nepalese counterpart and had a “very productive and useful exchange” with him. “FS @harshvshringla had a productive meeting with @PaudyalBR during which they took stock of bilateral cooperation and discussed issues of mutual interest,” the Indian embassy in Kathmandu said in a tweet. “Both sides appreciated the progress made on the numerous bilateral initiatives and projects. It was agreed to take further steps to advance mutual cooperation,” it said in another tweet.

Speaking to the media, he said: “We had a very productive and useful exchange.” “The very large number of issues of bilateral cooperation that we went through, it shows the multi-faceted and comprehensive nature of our cooperation. We both agreed on various steps to advance some areas of cooperation, on very good progress on commitments made by the leadership and looking at some other initiatives that could happen,” he said. Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two foreign secretaries discussed various aspects of bilateral relations.

Foreign Secretary @PaudyalBR held bilateral talks with Foreign Secretary of India @harshvshringla this afternoon covering various aspects of Nepal-India bilateral relations in a cordial manner, the Foreign Ministry said in a tweet. While interacting with local journalists, Shringla said, “I have wanted to come here earlier also, but because of COVID-19 I couldn’t do so. I am very happy to be here. I was here in Kathmandu earlier too, though this is my first visit to Nepal as a Foreign Secretary. We have a very strong relationship. Our endeavour will be to see how we can take that relationship forward”.

“I would like to thank the government of Nepal, the foreign secretary for the warm hospitality extended to us. We have some very good meetings ahead of us and we will look forward to how that goes,” he said. Shringla’s two-day visit will be a continuation of the regular exchange of high-level visits between the two friendly neighbours, the Nepalese Foreign Ministry said in a statement this week.

On Friday, he will deliver a lecture on India-Nepal relations hosted by a think tank in Kathmandu and will inspect three schools built under Indian assistance at Gorkha, the epicenter of the 2015 earthquake, it said. Shringla will also hand over COVID-19-related support to the Government of Nepal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had pledged to construct 50,000 houses in Gorkha, the epicentre of the 2015 earthquake. The construction of forty thousand houses has already been completed there. “We have also focused on the education sector. India has also rebuilt school buildings in the Gorkha district. He will inaugurate three school buildings built in Gorkha under India’s assistance,” he said.

Shringla will also inaugurate a Buddhist monastery in Manang district situated in a remote mountainous region of Nepal near the Tibetan border, which was renovated under India’s assistance. Earlier this month, Indian Army chief Gen. M M Naravane travelled to Nepal on a three-day visit during which he held talks with Nepal’s top leadership and discussed bilateral relations.

During the visit, he called on Prime Minister Oli, who is also the Defence Minister of Nepal. Oli told him that problems between Nepal and India would be resolved through dialogue. Gen Naravane’s three-day visit to Nepal was largely aimed at resetting bilateral ties that came under severe strain following a bitter border row between the two countries.

The ties between the two countries came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8. Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory.

Days later, Nepal came out with a new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura as its territories. After Nepal released the map, India reacted sharply, calling it a “unilateral act” and cautioning Kathmandu that such “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it.

In its reaction, after Nepal’s lower house of parliament approved the bill, India had also termed as untenable the “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims by the neighbouring country. India had said Nepal’s action violates an understanding reached between the two countries to resolve the boundary issues through talks.

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