PM’s India visit: Differences over the draft nearly ‘derailed’ the joint communiqué

KATHMANDU, OCT 25 – Otherwise a very cordial and candid delegation talks between Nepal and India during the Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s four-day visit to India, turned tense and bitter towards the end as both sides insisted on a list of things that they wanted to include on the joint communiqué before wrapping up the official visit. Differences appeared so irreconcilable that point that agreeing on a common draft of the joint communiqué seemed difficult by the end of the visit, said an official.

The Indian side wanted to reference to setting up of a new Consulate Office in Nepalgunj, the Nepali side on the other hand dead-set against it and instead was pushing for inclusion the revision of 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 interventions 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 Indian side took up the issue of setting up a consulate office in Nepalgunj and that New Delhi was waiting a final response from the Nepali side. But, the Nepal’s proposal on reviewing or replacing or updating the 1950 treaty was not included on the Indian draft. “After several round of negotiations with the South Block officials, we were finally able to include the 1950 treaty issue,” a participants of the visit said.

The resolution didn’t come so easily. As Prime Minister Baburam 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 behind in Delhi to finalise the joint communiqué. When the two sides stuck to their respective positions, both Shrestha and Pun called Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal for advice. Dahal told them to stay the course and to reject the Indian draft.

“Yes, we rejected the idea of setting up Indian consulate office in Neplagunj,” Finance Minister Barshaman 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 Nepalgunj entry point is comparatively is comparatively small.”

“Later, Indian side became convinced and withdrew their demand,” Pun added.

Officials involved in the negotiations had approached the Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha first and briefed him about the Indian demand. Shrestha confirmed the events.

Foreign Minister Shrestha also stood firm against the Indian proposal, while asking Nepali officials to ensure that 1950 treaty was included. The issue remained unresolved until Prime Minister Bhattarai returned from Dehradun and intervened himself. He called 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 official.

An Indian embassy official in Kathmandu had no knowledge of incident that took place in New Delhi, but insisted that the Nepali side also wanted to set-up a Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu.ANIL GIRI from ekantipur

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