EDITORIAL: Desired results needed

It is high time Nepal and India took up the bilateral issues seriously, activating the joint mechanisms to get the desired results

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla wrapped up his two-day visit to Nepal on Friday, holding bilateral talks with his Nepali counterpart, Bharat Raj Paudyal, and paying courtesy calls on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali. This is the second high-level visit from the Indian side within a month. Earlier, India’s Army Chief MM Naravne paid a three-day visit to Nepal to receive the customary title of honorary general of the Nepal Army on November 5. The high-level visits from both the sides had been suspended after India opened up a road leading to Tibet’s Mansarovar from Uttarakhand, encroaching upon a19-km section of Nepali territory and also unilaterally publishing a political and administrative map of Limpiyadhura and Lipulek, also known as the Kalapani Region, in December 2019, historically claimed by Nepal with evidences following the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli reached between Nepal and then British-India. Six months later, Nepal also published a political map of the region incorporating Limpyiadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani area on its side on May 20. Nepal had sent three diplomatic notes to India, raising serious concerns over Indian encroachment of the region since the Indo-China war in 1960.

India’s refusal to hold bilateral talks at the foreign secretary level on the disputed border issue and economic cooperation had seen Nepal-India relations at their lowest ebb in recent history. India had even refused to hold talks with Nepal until the COVID-19 pandemic came to an end. However, with Naravane’s visit to Nepal amidst the pandemic had opened the door for bilateral talks, including the boundary issue, as stated in a statement issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu at the end of Shringla’s visit. The talks have helped break the ice, though it will take time to achieve substantive progress at the ground level. The commitment expressed by India to “complete the boundary work in the remaining segments” indicates that India is now ready to settle the boundary issue once and for all for the mutual benefit of both the sides.

As close neighbours, both Nepal and India share many things in common. However, it does not mean that we do not have any problems. Besides the boundary disputes, most of the India-funded development projects, including the Postal Road, have remained incomplete for years. Had this road been completed on time, the people from both the sides would have reaped economic benefits as a result of better connectivity. The proposed Pancheshwor Multipurpose Hydel Project has yet to kick start even though an agreement to this effect was reached 24 years ago when both the sides signed the Mahakali Treaty to share the water of the Mahakali River. People lose faith on their government and neighbour when formal bilateral deals are not executed within the deadline set by both the sides. It is high time Nepal and India took up these issues seriously, activating the existing joint mechanisms to get the desired results of the agreed joint projects. Shringla’s visit should not become yet another follow-up simply to break the ice. The Nepali people expect substantive results from his visit.

Chilly weather

For the past few days, the mercury has been dipping across the country. While this is expected with the onset of winter, it’s always good to make preparations in advance to avoid untoward incidents.

Wintertime sees an increase in respiratory diseases, especially in the Kathmandu Valley. Given Kathmandu’s bowl-shape valley, its heavy air pollutants tend to settle down during the cold months, causing respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia, asthma and bronchitis. Other diseases that people are prone to, not only in Kathmandu but across the country, include influenza, pharyngitis and sinusitis.

In winter, the cold wave takes a heavy toll of human lives across the Tarai belt. While it is very hot for the greater part of the year, it is not uncommon to see temperatures drop below zero with no sunshine for days on end. And to add to the woes of the people, this year there is the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to become even more severe as the cold progresses. The authorities must, therefore, see to it that not only are the people well prepared to face the cold wintry months ahead but that they also follow the health protocols to keep the coronavirus at bay.