Ahead of Oli visit, four-member Nepal group to review agreements with India

KP-Sharma-Oli

Ahead of Nepal’s Prime Minister K P Oli’s maiden visit to India, the Nepal government has proposed the formation of a four-member Eminent Persons’ Group.

The group will review the existing bilateral agreements with India, including the strategic Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950.

Nepal has proposed names of four persons to form the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG), during the cabinet meeting on January 14, though no formal decision was taken, according to Nepal’s Minister for Information and Communication Sherdhan Rai.

The names proposed for the group include former Finance Minister and former Nepalese Ambassador to India Bhesh Bahadur Thapa, former chief of the Commission for Investigation Authority Suyra Nath Upadhyaya, former UN assistant secretary general Kul Chandra Gautam and CPN-UML lawmaker Rajan Bhattarai.

The next cabinet meeting will take a formal decision in this regard, said Mr Rai.  

As per the 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, it allows free movement of people and goods between the two countries. The treaty had also agreed to a close relationship and collaboration on matters of defense and foreign policy.

The proposal to form the EPG comes as Nepal’s government prepares for Mr Oli’s visit to India. Mr Oli’s maiden visit to India comes in the backdrop of unease in bilateral relations, after months of a long blockade enforced by Indian-origin Madhesi people who are protesting Nepal’s new constitution.

During the Third Joint Commission Meeting between Nepal and India that was held in July 2014, the two countries had decided to set up the EPG with four members from each side at the request of Nepal.

The blockade in the border regions of Raxaul-Birgunj has impacted the overall trade. This would be a major issue of focus when Mr Oli visits India. Nepal’s growing proximity to China has also raised many questions in the Indian establishment. India and Nepal are working towards reinvigorating bilateral ties which has gone adrift in recent months.

(Sridhar Ramaswamy contributed inputs for this article)

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