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Onus on Nepal to create conducive atmosphere for talks


NEW DELHI: On the eve of Nepal’s move to pass a constitutional amendment on a new political map, India is of the view that the onus is on its government to create a conducive atmosphere for foreign secretary-level talks by adopting an approach that is not based on political machinations.

Nepal has reportedly sought foreign secretary-level talks with India via video conferencing but has simultaneously decided to go ahead with the Constitutional Amendment Bill, which is likely to be passed on Tuesday.

Such an approach is, however, futile, according to experts on Indo-Nepal affairs.

Nepal is raking up a 200-year-old issue on territorial matters and allowing a single pro-China leader to take the country down a confrontational path to serve his own political ends, which would not be in the interest of its citizens, one of the experts told ET.

If Nepal shows flexibility, it could open up possibilities for a meaningful outcome, he added.

Nepal watchers believe India has always offered to hold talks but this depends on reasonableness — if Nepal unilaterally prejudges the situation, then it is complicating the prospects of any settlements through talks, they said.

A Bill brought before the Nepalese parliament for amendment must go through a month-long process where the public can write to the parliament secretariat to modify it. Members of parliament can also introduce additional changes to the text.

Nepal has fast-tracked the process of bringing in the constitutional amendment.

Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s government has secured the support of the opposition Nepali Congress and is likely to pass the amendment with the desired two-thirds majority on June 9.

Even if Madhesi parties oppose the move, the numbers are stacked in favour of the amendment.

Ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu have been lukewarm after India inaugurated a road linking Kailash Mansarovar via Lipulekh on May 8. Nepal issued an updated map on May 20 which included Indian areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of its territory.

The constitutional amendment, once passed, will give legal status to the new map of the Himalayan country showing Indian areas as part of its territory.

Nepal has even ignored the fact that Lipulekh is a border trading point between India and China.

The Indian government has emphasised that the updated map is “not based on historical facts and evidence” and has urged Kathmandu to refrain from such an “unjustified cartographic assertion” and respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity. India and Nepal share an 1,800-km (1,118-mile) open border.

Since Oli became prime minister in 2015, Nepal’s relationship with China has strengthened, with heavy investment by Beijing in the country’s infrastructure.

Nepal has also decided to join Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship Belt and Road Initiative.

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