India, Nepal decide to accelerate bilateral projects amid map row
Kathmandu, Aug 17: Senior diplomats of India and Nepal on Monday held a virtual meeting during which they comprehensively reviewed the progress made on various India-aided developmental projects in the Himalayan nation and decided to expedite their implementation.
The meeting came days after Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli telephoned his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to greet him on India's 74th Independence Day, in the first high-level contact after bilateral ties came under severe strain following issuance of a new political map by Nepal in May.
Nepalese Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi and Indian Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra led the delegations representing their respective countries during the 8th meeting of Oversight Mechanism.
The meeting, held virtually due to the coronavirus outbreak, carried out a comprehensive review of bilateral economic and development cooperation projects since its 7th meeting held on July 8, 2019.
During the meeting, both sides deliberated on the issues and agreed to expedite their implementation, according to a press release issued by the Indian Embassy here.
The two sides noted, "the progress made in the development projects in the last one year, including reconstruction of 46,301 earthquake-damaged houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts the operationalization of Motihari-Amlekhgunj, cross border petroleum products pipeline, the Integrated Check Post at Biratnagar and the High Impact Community Development Projects."
Nepal also noted with appreciation COVID-19 related assistance, including the supply of medical equipment by India, the release said.
The meeting mainly discussed the status of implementation of the on-going projects under Nepal-India bilateral cooperation covering Terai roads, cross-border railways, Arun-III hydropower project and petroleum products pipelines, according to the Nepalese Foreign Ministry.
"The meeting also discussed issues related with Pancheshwar multipurpose project, post-earthquake reconstruction, irrigation, power and transmission lines, construction of Nepal Police Academy, integrated check posts, Ramayana circuit, HICDPs, motorable bridges over Mahakali River, agriculture and cultural heritage, among others," it said.
"Both sides underlined the need for expediting implementation of the bilateral projects. In that connection, they agreed to undertake necessary measures to timely address problems and obstacles in the course of implementation," it said.
The Nepal-India Oversight Mechanism was set up after Prime Minister Modi''s visit to Nepal in September 2016 to oversee the implementation of bilateral projects and take necessary steps for their completion in time.
"India and Nepal have agreed to hold the next meeting of the mechanism on a mutually convenient date to review the progress made in the implementation of the India assisted economic and development cooperation projects," it added.
The ties between India and Nepal came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.
Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory. Days later, Nepal came out with the new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories.
In June, Nepal''s Parliament approved the new political map of the country featuring areas which India maintains belong to it.
In its reaction, after Nepal''s lower house of parliament approved the bill, India termed as untenable the "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims by the neighbouring country.
India said Nepal''s action violates an understanding reached between the two countries to resolve the boundary issues through talks.
Prime Minister Oli has been asserting that Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura belong to Nepal and vowed to "reclaim" them from India.