India-Nepal Joint Commission meeting took place at a time when Nepal in going through a political turmoil. The article examines the issues discussed in the meeting and how its implications for the bilateral relations between the two countries.
India-Nepal joint commission meeting amid political chaos in Nepal
- Recently, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal visited New Delhi for the sixth meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission.
- Nepal’s Prime Minister dissolved the House of Representatives in late December 2020, the move was termed ‘unconstitutional’ by the experts and the country’s Supreme Court is hearing writ petitions against the move.
- As a unique characteristic, Nepal’s internal political fundamentals continue to shape its foreign policy choices.
- In such a scenario, any inbound or outbound delegation is seen from a different prism.
Issues discussed in the meeting
1) Progress on the development partnership front
- On the development partnership front, the expansion of the Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum products pipelines to Chitwan and the establishment of a new pipeline on the eastern side connecting Siliguri to Jhapa in Nepal formed a part of the discussions.
- The operating procedures for commencement of train services of the first passenger railway line between India and Nepal from Jaynagar to Kurtha via Janakpurhave have been discussed.
- Other cross-border rail connectivity projects, including a possible Raxaul-Kathmandu broad gauge railway line, were also discussed.
- The joint hydropower projects, including the proposed Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, should get positive momentum following this round of meetings.
2) Facilitating the cross-border movement of people
- The recently inaugurated Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at Birgunj and Biratnagar have helped in the seamless movement of people and trade between the two countries.
- The construction of a third integrated check post at Nepalgunj has already commenced, while the new integrated check post at Bhairahwa would begin shortly.
- Since Nepal relies on India’s seaports in a big way for trading, and goods are transported by road, the integrated check posts are expected to ease trade and transit.
3) Border issue
- Nepali side’s demand to include the boundary in the Joint Commission Meeting.
- However, India made it clear to find a fresh mechanism to resolve any such crucial long-pending issue.
4) New direction to bilateral ties
- India’s support for two more cultural heritage projects in Nepal, namely, the Pashupatinath Riverfront Development and the Bhandarkhal Garden Restoration in Patan Durbar is significant.
- Nepal expressed support for India’s permanent membership of an expanded UN Security Council (UNSC) to reflect the changed balance of power.
- The next meeting of the Joint Commission in Nepal should be crucial in giving a new direction to the bilateral ties, keeping a balance between change and continuity.
India’s deepening engagement with all sections
- There is growing disenchantment among the Nepali masses over the increased centralization of power, failure of the Provincial System in addressing the developmental issues, misuse of Presidential authority, and unprecedented corruption.
- While the unusual developments are taking place in Nepal, there are many who still think that India is comfortable with some changes as its Nepal policy is heading very clearly towards a deeper engagement with all sections.
Consider the question “How India-Nepal ties are affected by the internal political fundamentals in Nepal? What approach should be adopted by India in dealing with Nepal?”
Nepal cannot afford to enter into another round of political instability, and those who have commanding authority to spearhead India-Nepal bilateral relations must give a humane consideration to it. At the crossroads, Nepal needs action and to come to terms with realities.