Amid a dip in bilateral relations in recent months, eminent personalities from India and Nepal began talks here on Monday to review the gamut of ties between the neighbours.
The first meeting of the Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India Relations (EPG-NIR) was inaugurated by deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio.
Both countries had agreed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Nepal in 2014 to set up such a group “to look into the totality of Nepal-India relations from independent, non government perspectives”.
The purpose of the group, consisting of four members each from both countries, is to suggest measures to expand and consolidate relations, including the need to review treaties.
“I am sure you will study all aspects of Nepal-India relations while taking into consideration the present realties and would provide constructive recommendations,” Thapa said in his address at the start of the two-day meet.
There in an ongoing debate in Nepal on the need to review most treaties with India, including the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship as many in the Himalayan country feel it is “unequal”.
“We want the Nepali side to put forward all their concerns on the table, so that we can strengthen our long-standing ties,” BJP MP and former Uttarakhand chief minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari, who heads the Indian side, told Hindustan Times.
Former Nepal foreign minister Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, who is leading the Nepali side, said the first meeting will be exploratory in nature and set the agenda for future discussions.
Ties between the countries dipped last year after India expressed its reservations over Nepal’s new constitution and sought provisions to address the demands of Madhesi people, who share close ties across the border.
Kathmandu blamed New Delhi of using an agitation by Madhesis seeking changes to the statute to impose a five-month blockade of key border points. India denied any role in the blockade.
Relations were further strained in May after Nepal cancelled a visit to India by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and recalled its ambassador on suspicion of New Delhi plotting to dislodge the government.