Nepal deputy PM meets Swaraj in bid to mend ties

  • Utpal Parashar, Kathmandu/New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 10, 2016 23:34 IST
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj meets Nepal deputy PM Kamal Thapa in New Delhi on Friday. (ANi on Twitter)

Nepal’s deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa met external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Friday as he began a three-day visit aimed at mending relations between the neighbours.

After the meeting, during which the two discussed bilateral ties, Thapa tweeted the talks had been “very useful and constructive”.

Thapa said relations are “back on track” and the Himalayan nation now looks to its southern neighbour to play a major role in consolidating the political change it has adopted: “The misunderstandings of the recent past have been resolved... as many as 13 bilateral meetings lined up during June-July are proof that relations are good,” he said.

Thapa is slated to preside over the first convocation of South Asian University on Saturday.

Nepal last month recalled its ambassador to India and cancelled a trip by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari to the country, not long after an unsuccessful attempt was made by the country’s Maoists at dislodging Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. Many within Oli’s party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, accused New Delhi of being behind the political maneouvres. Oli survived by inking a deal with the Maoists, who are part of the ruling coalition.

The recent series of events, which come after India’s cold response to Nepal’s new constitution and a five-month-long border-blockade imposed by Madhesis, have severely impacted relations.

“We must not allow things to continue like they are now. All recent hurdles should be removed and high-level dialogues intensified,” former Nepal foreign minister Bhekh Bahadur Thapa told Hindustan Times.

Thapa, who is also part of the eminent persons group constituted by both nations to take stock of bilateral treaties, said Kathmandu is keen to take ties to a new level.

“The visit by Kamal Thapa shows there is an attempt to build up trust, but we shouldn’t expect any quick fix solutions,” said Sridhar Khatri, a former executive director of the Colombo-based Regional Centre for Strategic Studies.

India is unhappy with half-hearted attempts by the Nepal government to address demands of Madhesis and other marginalised groups seeking changes in the new constitution. Talks between the Nepal government and groups opposed to the statute have come to a halt. Protesters who held rallies in Kathmandu last month have now resorted to a relay hunger strike.

Thapa said on Sunday his government is committed to resolving the issue and a high-level panel has been set up to suggest within three months ways to resolve Madhesi demands. He said Nepal’s relations with India are “incomparable”.

(With inputs from agency)

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