Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla to visit Nepal
Foreign secretary Harsh Shringla is set to visit Nepal this month to take forward bilateral ties that were rocked by a border row earlier this year, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity on Wednesday.
Shringla’s visit will come close on the heels of a two-day trip to Kathmandu last week by the Indian Army chief, Gen MM Naravane. During his meeting with Naravane on November 6, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said the two countries could resolve all problems through dialogue.
There has been no formal announcement regarding Shringla’s visit so far, and the people cited above said he is expected to be Kathmandu during November 26-27.
The people added that officials of both countries had been working behind the scenes to put the bilateral relationship back on an even keel against the backdrop of the India-China border standoff in the Ladakh sector. India has also been keep a wary eye on China’s stepped-up efforts to increase its influence in Nepal, where Beijing has invested in infrastructure projects.
This will be Shringla’s fifth foreign visit in the aftermath of pandemic-related travel restrictions. He visited the Maldives this week, and has also travelled to Bangladesh and Myanmar in the neighbourhood. Earlier this month, Shringla travelled to France, Germany and the UK.
One of the people cited above said the upcoming visit to Nepal was in line with India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy and would provide the two sides an opportunity to give fresh impetus to bilateral ties after the border row over the Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadura areas.
Every Indian foreign secretary usually visits key countries in the neighbourhood shortly after assuming office. The travel plans of Shringla, who became foreign secretary in January, were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Naravane’s visit, during which he was conferred the honorary rank of general of the Nepali Army in keeping with a long-standing tradition, was seen as a key part of efforts to improve the relationship. The army chief travelled to Nepal days after Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel made a low-key visit to Kathmandu during which he met Oli.
India-Nepal ties were hit in May after defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a key border road to Lipulekh region, which is claimed by Nepal. Kathmandu responded by issuing a new map that showed Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura, all controlled by India, as part of Nepalese territory. This exacerbated the border row.
India is yet to respond formally to several requests from Nepal for talks on the border issue and the people said the foreign secretary’s visit will prepare the ground for such a dialogue.