PM’s india visit: Row almost ‘derailed’ communiqué
Both sides insisted on a list of things to be included in it
Otherwise a very cordial and candid delegation talks between Nepal and India during Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s four-day visit to India, the discussions turned tense and bitter towards the end as both the sides insisted on a list of things that they wanted to include in the joint communiqué before wrapping up the official visit.
The differences appeared so irreconcilable that agreeing on a common draft of the communiqué seemed difficult by the end of the visit, an official said.
While the Indian side wanted a reference to a new Consulate Office in Nepalgunj, the Nepali side was dead-set against it and instead was pushing for the inclusion of the revision of the 1950 treaty, according to senior Nepali officials involved in finalising the document.
While the Nepali officials were fuming with anger, Indian officials were insisting that no joint communiqué be released with Nepal agreeing to the consulate issue. It took intervention from the highest level to end the row, officials said.
Earlier, a draft of the joint communiqué prepared by the Indian side had mentioned that India took up the issue of setting up a consulate office in Nepalgunj and that New Delhi was awaiting a final response from the Nepali side. But Nepal’s proposal on reviewing or replacing the 1950 treaty was not included in the draft.
“After several round of negotiations with the South Block officials, we were finally able to include the 1950 treaty issue,” an official in Bhattarai’s delegation said.
The resolution did not come so easily. As Bhattarai and the rest of the delegation left for Dehradun on Sunday morning, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Finance Minister Barshaman Pun stayed in Delhi to finalise the joint communiqué.
When the two sides stuck to their positions, both Shrestha and Pun called Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal for advice. Dahal told them to stay the course and reject the Indian draft.
“Yes, we rejected the idea of setting up an Indian consulate in Nepalgunj,” Pun told the Post, adding, “We did not se any valid reason behind the Indian request. Moreover, our volume of business with India taking place from the Nepalgunj entry point is comparatively small.”
“Later, the Indian side was convinced and it withdrew its demand,” Pun added.
Officials involved in the negotiations had approached the Foreign Minister Shrestha first and briefed him on the Indian demand. Shrestha confirmed the events.
Shrestha also stood firm against the Indian proposal, while asking Nepali officials to ensure that the 1950 treaty was included.
The issue remained unresolved until Bhattarai returned from Dehradun and intervened. He called on senior Indian officials including Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai. The prime minister’s intervention led to the Indian side dropping their demand, said a senior Nepali government
An Indian embassy official in Kathmandu had no knowledge of the incident in New Delhi, but insisted that the Nepali side also wanted to set up a Nepal Tourism Board office in Delhi.