The recent 5th meeting of India Nepal Joint Commission in Kathmandu has extensively reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations with specific focus on areas of connectivity, economic partnership, trade, transit, power, water resources and culture and education. The meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Ministers of the two countries. India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar flew to Kathmandu from Dhaka after having productive discussions with Bangladesh leaders on matters of mutual interest and regional issues.
Ahead of the Joint Commission meeting Dr. Jaishankar called on Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. This was the first high level visit to Nepal by an Indian minister after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was re-elected to office in May this year. A statement of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Nepal said the Joint Commission expressed happiness over the momentum generated in the overall aspects of Nepal-India relations following the exchange of high-level visits in the past two years. Prime Minister Oli had visited India in April last year followed by two successive visits to Nepal by Prime Minister Modi in May and August, 2018.
The Joint Commission was happy that India assisted Motihari- Amlekhgunj Petroleum Products Pipeline and post-earthquake reconstruction of private housing in Nuwakot and Gorkha districts have been completed. India handed over a cheque of 2.45 billion Nepali rupees to Nepal towards reimbursement for the housing projects in the presence of the two Ministers. Another cheque for 80.71 crore Indian rupees was handed over as part of Government of India’s commitment of 500 crore rupees towards strengthening of road infrastructure in the Terai region of Nepal. Four segments of ‘Hulaki’ Roads in Terai region are ready for inauguration.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Food Safety and Standards between Department of Food Technology and Quality Control of Nepal and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India was also signed and exchanged in the presence of the two Ministers.
Both Dr. Jaishankar and Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali, who co-chaired the meeting, expressed satisfaction over the progress made in Jayanagar-Janakpur and Jogbani-Biratnagar sections of cross-border railway projects and Integrated Check Post in Biratnagar. They also reviewed the progress in three new areas agreed during the visit of Prime Minister Oli to India, the Raxaul-Kathmandu Electrified Rail Line, Inland Waterways and Partnership in Agriculture. Pre-feasibility study has been completed by India Nepal joint teams for the Raxaul-Kathmandu rail link and joint studies are being expedited for inland waterways project to operate mid-sized vessels in the Narayani and Kosi rivers in Nepal.
Both Ministers also exchanged views on the India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 and about submission of report of the Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India Relations to Prime Ministers of the two countries. Both sides also agreed to an early conclusion of the review of trade and transit treaties and agreements and to continue upgradation and maintenance of infrastructure and logistic facilities at major border crossing-points.
Expressing their serious concern over recurring floods and inundation along Nepal India border, the Joint Commission agreed to take action on the recommendations made by a joint team of officials who continue monitoring the situation.
The meeting of the Nepal India Joint Commission was held after a gap of nearly three years, the last one being held in New Delhi in October 2016. The Joint Commission mechanism was established in 1987 by the two countries with the mandate to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations and regional cooperation but it remained inactive for a number of years.
During his visit to Kathmandu, the Indian External Affairs Minister also called on Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari before leaving for New Delhi. It is expected that the commitment expressed by the two sides at the Joint Commission meeting will take India Nepal relations to new heights.
Script: Rattan Saldi, Political Commentator