After delay, EPG to meet next week

Kathmandu, March 11

The third meeting of Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India relations is all set to be held in Kathmandu next week.

Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, chair of the EPG from the Nepali side, told The Himalayan Times that the meeting would be held in Kathmandu from March 18 to 19. EPG members from India are arriving for the meeting a day in advance.

Earlier, the meeting was supposed to be held in Pokhara from December 22 and 23. The EPG meeting is being held after a delay of two-and-a-half months due to state assembly elections in India, including in Uttarakhand, home state of Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who is the EPG chair from the Indian side.

A senior leader of ruling BJP and former chief minister of Uttarakhand, Koshiyari is seen as one of the front runners for the post of chief minister of the state. If he bags the portfolio, he could be relieved of his position as the EPG chair, a source told The Himalayan Times.

Thapa said unlike planned earlier, the meeting venue was changed from Pokhara to Kathmandu upon the request of Koshyari, whose party BJP has secured a landslide victory in Uttarakhand state assembly elections. On being asked if the delay in holding the third EPG meeting would also hamper the mechanism’s eight meetings, which should be held within its two-year mandate, Thapa said the hold-up would be covered by organising its fourth and fifth earlier.

EPG, a joint mechanism with four members each from Nepal and India, was formed in February to review existing bilateral treaties and agreements between the two countries.

As per the understanding, the EPG meeting alternatively takes place every three months in Nepal and India. The first EPG meeting was held in Kathmandu in July, and the second meeting in New Delhi from October 4 to 5, 2016.

Thapa said some of the agendas of the meeting were to further review Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, the existing trade regime, and cooperation in sharing water resources between Nepal and India.

The issue of the 1950 treaty was discussed in the earlier two meetings, too. But, the two sides have yet to come up with concrete positions on the issues and find a common ground.

In earlier meetings, both sides had agreed to keep the title of the 66-year-old treaty intact, but contextualise some of its provisions.

On the issue of water resources, both sides will review all bilateral water-related treaties and agreements that include the Koshi Treaty, the Gandak Treaty and the Mahakali Treaty, an official said.