Monday, 25 January, 2021

Diplomatic Ice-breaking

Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla returned home Friday after completing his two-day visit to Nepal. Shringla’s visit remained highly fruitful in enhancing meaningful communication between the two nations at the diplomatic and political level. Just a few months back, a big uncertainty hung over the bilateral ties between the two nations following the release of new political maps by both sides. Indian foreign secretary held talks with his Nepali counterpart as well as the President, the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and opposition party leader. These meetings have helped overcome the deepening distrust between the two countries and open the door for dialogue to sort out the contentious issues which have come in the way of the warm age-old relations.

His meeting with Nepal’s foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudel dwelt on various aspects of bilateral relations, including trade, transit, connectivity, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, investment, culture and people to people relations, among others. It is positive that Shringla promised to take initiatives to further enhance the bilateral bond. The meeting was significant as the two nations, for the first time, formally dwelt on the border dispute between two countries and the ways to resolve them through dialogue. The territorial dispute came to head after India incorporated Nepal’s territories in Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek in its new political map unveiled last year. Responding to India’s unilateral move, Nepal also updated its map including these places and amended constitution to put it in the coat of arms.

According to the news report of this daily, Shringla conveyed Prime Minister Modi’s message that he wanted to take the bilateral relations between the two countries forward by making them good. No doubt, Modi’s message is praiseworthy because no country benefits when their ties go sour. Prime Minister Oli conveyed the message to the Indian side that Nepal was ready to resolve all bilateral issues, including the territorial dispute through dialogue and promote the multifaceted relations with the southern neighbour. PM Oli assured the visiting Indian guest that Nepal would not allow anyone to use its soil against the interest of any neighbours. The PM noted that the territorial dispute had come as the past legacy and it could be further compounded if it was left unresolved. Therefore, Shringla should communicate to the Indian establishment that Nepal is ready for peaceful solution to the outstanding border dispute through negotiations.

Shringla’s visit, which follows the trip of Indian intelligence and army chiefs some time back, has created an atmosphere for high level exchanges between the two nations in coming days. It also rekindled high hopes of ironing out the bilateral irritants through talks and negotiations. When PM Oli had granted the RAW chief an audience, critics were quick to accuse the government of giving Indian intelligence agency a fair amount of leeway in handling the bilateral matters. But Shringla’s visit has put all those unfounded charges and speculations to rest. This diplomatic ice-breaking must be seized to mend fences and enhance the bilateral bonhomie. It is imperative that the top political leaderships from both nations hold meaningful dialogue in earnest so as to resolve the territorial and other issues in an amicable manner, putting the bilateral relations on a normal course.  

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