Eminent Persons Group to review all aspects of Nepal-India relations

Kathmandu, June 28

The first-ever meeting of Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India Relations, to be held in Kathmandu next week, will finalise the body’s agenda, timeframe, code for its members, as well as working procedures.

The meeting will convene on July 4-5 and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister will inaugurate its opening session, followed by an exclusive close-door discussion by its eight members.

The body has four members each from Nepal and India. Nepali EPG members include former-foreign minister Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former chief commissioner of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority Surya Nath Upadhyay, former law minister Nilambar Acharya and CPN-UML lawmaker Rajan Bhattarai.

The Indian EPG members are lawmaker and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Bhagat Singh Koshyari, former vice-chancellor of Sikkim University Mahendra Lama, former Indian ambassador to Nepal Jayant Prasad and VIF senior fellow BC Upreti.

EPG members from India are due to arrive in Kathmandu on July 3, according EPG Secretariat.

“The first meeting will be an exploratory one,” EPG Coordinator of Nepal Bhekh Bahadur Thapa told The Himalayan Times. “We will explore and finalise the topics to be reviewed by EPG, decide its working procedures and set timeframe for its report.”

During the meeting, EPG members will decide their own code of ethics -- whether they are free to make public statements or write opinion pieces on bilateral issues.

Another EPG member told THT: “Since EPG is an independent body, we are open to discuss all bilateral issues, including political, social, economic, trade and transit, border management, water resources etc.”

The body will come up with a joint report containing recommendations for both the governments on how to improve bilateral relations in the changed context.

The EPG has been given two years to come up with a comprehensive report on anything that needs to be updated, adjusted or amended in all exiting bilateral treaties, agreements, understandings, including the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950s. It’s said that its tenure would be counted from its first meeting next week.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Bharat Raj Paudyal said the meeting of EPG was a ‘very positive news’ after a long delay, as the body was mooted almost two years ago.

Formation of EPG was decided upon Nepal’s proposal during the third Nepal-India Joint Commission meeting in July 2014. The body, however, got its final shape only after both countries announced names of EPG members during Prime Minister KP Oli’s India visit in February.