NEW DELHI :
epal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli on Tuesday called for the resolution of what he termed as pending issues with India as he and his counterpart Narendra Modi inaugurated the second Integrated Check Post (ICP) on the India-Nepal border.
On his part, Modi said India had been “playing the role of a trusted partner in Nepal’s all round development".
The Jogbani (Bihar)-Biratnagar (Nepal) checkpost is the second to be opened since the 2018 inauguration of the Raxaul-Birgunj check post.
The ICPs are aimed at boosting commercial and people-to-people links.
The move comes amid warming ties between China and Nepal, which New Delhi is watching warily. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal in October when the two sides recast ties with China promising to help Nepal realise its dream of becoming a “land-linked" country. Among the announcements made was one on a feasibility study of a trans-Himalayan railway link aimed at helping land-locked Nepal to realise its goal of achieving “strategic autonomy", according to media reports.
“The time has come to resolve all pending issues through dialogue in the lasting interest of our two countries and peoples," Oli said on Tuesday.
He expressed his appreciation for the swift completion of the checkpoint as well the completion of 50,000 houses in Nepal, made possible through an Indian grant for people affected by the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.
“Stable and majority governments" in both countries provide New Delhi and Kathmandu the opportunity to do this, he said.
Analysts said Oli’s reference includes a border dispute along the India-Nepal border close to China at a point, called Kalapani, which is on the tri-junction between India, Nepal and China. It has been guarded on the Indian side by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police since 1962. India and Nepal both claim Kalapani, a 35sq. km area—India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of its Darchula district.
The issue acquired fresh currency after New Delhi published a new map of India following the bifurcation of Kashmir into two Union territories on 5 August. The foreign secretaries of India and Nepal were to meet to discuss the Kalapani border issue but no dates have been notified.
The other issues Oli alluded to as sticking points in ties include a longstanding demand from Kathmandu for the reworking of the 1950 India-Nepal peace and friendship treaty to reflect current realities. In 2014, the two countries had agreed to “review, adjust and update" the pact but progress has been slow.
An Eminent Persons Group appointed by both governments subsequent to this has come up with a report that has been accepted by Nepal but is still to be formally accepted by India, according to news reports.
Modi said that “Neighbourhood First’ was a key plank of his government and improving cross-border connectivity is a key element of this.
“The issue of better connectivity becomes all the more important if it concerns India and Nepal, because our relationship is not simply of neighbours but because history and geography have connected us," he said.
India is working on cross-connectivity projects including road, rail and transmission lines in Nepal, PM Modi said.