In 2014, Indian PM Modi had vowed to expedite the Pancheshwar Project at the earliest

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba returned on Sunday after paying a three-day goodwill visit to India, where he raised the border issue between the two countries with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. The relations between the two countries had reached the lowest ebb after Nepal incorporated the Kalapani region (Lympiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani) in its administrative map on May 20, 2020 through the amendment of its constitution in response to the construction of a 19-km-long road by India on Nepal's territory. PM Deuba raised this issue with his Indian counterpart, who is said to be positive to resolve it through diplomatic means, and even the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has reportedly taken it positively. Immediately after Deuba and Modi concluded their joint press conference, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said this issue was discussed 'briefly'. Shringla said both the sides reached a common understanding to responsibly resolve the issue through dialogue and stressed that it should not be politicised. Shringla said the mechanisms that exist between the two countries will resolve the border dispute through dialogue.

Nepal had sent a diplomatic note to India after the latter issued the political and administrative map incorporating the Kalapani region some twoand-a-half years ago. But India had been dilly-dallying to activate the foreign secretary-level mechanism to discuss the issue, citing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the visit, both the prime ministers jointly flagged off the Jaynagar-Kurtha railway service, which was completed two years ago. Both the PMs also jointly inaugurated the 90-km-long 132 Kv double circuit Solu Corridor Transmission line and a sub-station, both built under the Line of Credit extended by India. They also launched Indian RuPay card in Nepal. This will help ensure financial connectivity between the peoples of both the countries.

Both the PMs also discussed enhancing energy connectivity among Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan. PM Deuba appreciated the fresh approvals allowing NEA to export substantial amounts of power to India. Indian PM Modi also welcomed Nepal's decision to join the International Solar Alliance.

As per the statement issued by the MEA, both the sides agreed to expedite the progress in implementing the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, beginning with early finalisation of the Detailed Project Report. It has been 26 years since the Integrated Development of the Mahakali River, including Sarada Barrage, Tanakpur Barrage and Pancheshwar Project, was signed between the two countries on February 12, 1996. But no progress has been made on the development of the project due to row over sharing of water augmented from building the dam on the Mahakali River. Every time a Nepali prime minister pays a visit to the southern neighbour, this issue is raised prominently by the Nepali side, but to no avail. The Pancheshwar Project was expected to kick start when PM Modi paid an official visit to Nepal in 2014. While addressing Nepal's parliament, PM Modi had vowed to expedite the project at the earliest. Both the sides have set up a joint team of experts to finalise the DPR.

But its meeting has not been held since 2019.

Wildlife farming

The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) has drafted the norms for commercial farming and breeding of wild animals, which have now been submitted to the Ministry of Forests and Environment for approval. The government's nod for the commercial farming of wildlife is long overdue, which should create new avenues of employment, with plenty of potential for export of bushmeat. The DNPWC will issue the license for rearing wild mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds, based on the recommendations made by a technical committee. Licencees will be allowed to farm mammals such as the musk deer, porcupines and wild boar; all species of reptiles except for the python; amphibians such as frogs and turtles; and birds like kalij, partridge, myna, quails and the like.

Many young entrepreneurs today are rearing imported pheasants and quails as well as wild boar. But scarcity of land is hindering their expansion. Allowing the commercial farming of wildlife by leasing out forests will bring many more returns than what leasedhold forestry is doing today. A hectare of forest in the developed world provides gainful employment to two persons. With wildlife farming, it could do the same for Nepal.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 4, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.