Covid-19 vaccines, cooperation to be focus of Nepal foreign minister's visit
- Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali is visiting for a meeting of the India-Nepal joint commission, which will discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral relations.
Procuring Covid-19 vaccines and development cooperation will be the focus of Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali’s visit to India during January 14-16 though the border row is expected to figure in discussions, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
Gyawali is visiting at the invitation of his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar for a meeting of the India-Nepal joint commission, which will discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral relations, including Covid-19 cooperation and the boundary issue, according to a readout from Nepal’s foreign ministry.
Though Nepal has formally reached out to both India and China for vaccines, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity that Kathmandu had indicated a preference for sourcing doses from New Delhi because of a variety of factors, including pricing, logistics and well-established links between the health sectors of the two countries.
“The joint commission meeting will discuss the whole gamut of Nepal-India bilateral relations, including trade, transit, energy, boundary, Covid-19 cooperation, infrastructure, connectivity, investment, agriculture, tourism, culture, among others,” the readout from Nepal’s foreign ministry said.
The people cited above said Nepal is hoping India will provide vaccines as assistance to inoculate some portion of the 12 million people it plans to cover in its first phase of vaccinations. Nepal is also looking to buy millions of doses from foreign suppliers, including the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech.
“These are the sort of issues that will be discussed at the joint commission meeting so that we can work out modalities,” one of the people said.
Jaishankar said on Tuesday that India’s ability to export vaccines after meeting domestic needs will become clear over the next few weeks. Officials have already said India’s neighbours will get priority for the supply of vaccines.
India-Nepal ties had come under the shadow of a border row last year after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s government issued a new political map that included Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh, which are part of Indian territory. The map was published in response to India’s opening of a strategic road to Lipulekh, located on the border with China.
Following back-to-back visits to Kathmandu last year by Research and Analysis Wing chief Samant Goel, Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane and foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, bilateral ties were put on an even keel and the two countries held a series of meetings to boost cooperation in areas such as energy and trade.
Ahead of Gyawali’s visit, Oli has sent mixed signals on the border row. Addressing the upper house of Parliament on Sunday, he pledged to “retrieve” Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh from India through diplomatic talks. At the same time, he has also spoken of forging a stronger bond and friendship with India.
The people cited above said India had already made its position on the border row very clear – the external affairs ministry had last year described Nepal’s new map as “unjustified cartographic assertion” – and the stance hadn’t changed.
Gyawali is the senior-most Nepalese leader to visit India since the Covid-19 outbreak and his delegation will include the foreign secretary, health secretary and other senior officials.
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