The Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG) of Nepal and India concluded a meeting in the capital the other day, discussing issues relating to enhancing bilateral relations between the two neighbouring countries. The group was formed after the strained relations following the imposition of Indian unofficial economic sanction immediately after the promulgation of new constitution in Nepal. The group is meeting regularly since its inception and the latest meeting in Kathmandu is the fifth in the series. This body of prominent diplomatic personalities with deep insight into the bilateral issues is very relevant to identify burning issues between the two immediate neighbours to promote goodwill and friendly bond. Objective and diplomatically sound role played by the group can have far-reaching importance in minimising misunderstanding, resolving irritants if any and deepening trust and cooperation. Regular meetings of the body and recommendations it makes will play vital role during both normal and strained times. The members of the group should strive to make sure that a crisis situation like that of 2015 does not arise again which did harm to both the neighbours and benefitted none. A lasting trust and friendship happens when one neighbour treats the other on the basis of equality, independence and sovereignty. If past treaties between the two countries have some limitations towards that direction, they need to be reviewed and amended. It is in this light that the latest meeting of EPC rightly dwelt on the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Nepal and India.
Amid changing global reality and political transformations in Nepal, it is relevant to move ahead with reforms and changes in the 1950 treaty. In the changed context, sticking to the status quo will not be desirable for both the sides. A democratic federal republic of Nepal should be assertive and bold about its sovereignty, independence and the inherent rights of a landlocked nation when dealing with its immediate neighbours. It is a positive development that EPG has drawn the attention of both the governments to review the treaty and it is expected that the issue will come to a conclusion within the tenure of this EPG. The group has the mandate to work for the next 10 months. Hopefully, similar new body will be constituted to succeed it in future. Nepal and India share an open border, a fact which has both positive and negative consequences. While this situation has facilitated mobility, exchanges and convenience at the commercial and people’s level, this also raises possibility of transborder crime, terrorist infiltration and smuggling. A sound border management system needs to be put in place in order to facilitate trade interaction and cultural intermingling while putting illegal activities at bay. Border management issue rightly surfaced at the EPG meeting which will get continuity in its next meeting slated to be held in New Delhi on November 11 and 12. Issues of border encroachment from Indian side also surface in Nepal time and again. Joint mechanism of the two countries should review such complaints and the issues need to be resolved timely on the basis of authentic border maps. Transborder movement of criminal elements may pose a threat to the security of both the countries. This issue should also be taken seriously.