EPG lacks moral, logistics support from government

Kathmandu, November 26

As preparations for hosting the third meeting of Eminent Persons Group in Kathmandu next month are under way, the Nepali side of the body is reeling under severe resource crunch.

Virtually no budget has been allocated to the mechanism since its establishment, while four of its members are working voluntarily.

The government had decided to set up EPG two years ago and provide at least US$ 100,000 for its functioning. The mechanism formally started working in July, but the pledged fund has yet to be released.

An EPG member told The Himalayan Times that the government had not lent moral or logistics support to the body, which has been mandated to ‘redefine’ Nepal-India relations.

Talking to The Himalayan Times, Minister Mahat once said EPG members were trying to run a ‘parallel state’. He, however, didn’t elaborate it further.

A source linked his resentment to a remark made by EPG member and former minister Nilambar Acharya, who was vocal on Nepal’s failure to perform desired role as the incumbent chair of SAARC when the regional grouping’s scheduled summit in Islamabad was called off in the wake of Indo-Pak tensions in September.

“As per its ToR, EPG is free to perform its works independently. Even if the minister had any reservations over its activities, he could have expressed it privately,” said a foreign ministry official. “We wanted to consult the minister about what we could do to improve Nepal-India ties,” an EPG member said. “But he avoided discussing the issue.”

A source said a recent Cabinet meeting decided to allocate at least US$ 50,000 for EPG. EPG Coordinator Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, however, said he was not aware of it.

EPG, a joint mechanism with four members each from Nepal and India, was formed in February to recommend if any existing bilateral treaty or agreement needed revision as per the spirit of the changed context. The first EPG meeting was held in Kathmandu in July and the second meeting in New Delhi in October.

Thapa said next EPG meeting — slated for third week of December, would further review Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, existing trade regime as well as cooperation on water resources.