Kathmandu: In a move seen as an effort to calm simmering tension between the two nations, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day.
It was the first telephonic conversation between the two Prime Ministers since bilateral ties deteriorated over the Kalapani boundary dispute.
During the call, which lasted 11 minutes, Oli greeted the people of India on the occasion of I-Day and congratulated the government on India’s recent election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
“The leaders expressed mutual solidarity in the context of the efforts being made to minimise the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in both countries. Prime Minister offered India’s continued support to Nepal in this regard,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.
Modi thanked his Nepal counterpart, who had earlier in the day also wished Modi and the country on Twitter.
For the first time since the Kalapani dispute, India and Nepal will hold talks on August 17 to review bilateral economic and developmental projects in the Himalayan nation. The Indian government has allocated Rs 800 crore in the budget for projects in Nepal like building roads in Terai region, helping the Himalayan kingdom in its post-earthquake reconstruction work, building railway lines, a police training academy, a polytechnic college, an oil pipeline and border check posts.
A joint oversight mechanism to review projects was established in 2016, under which officials last met in July 2019. Monday’s meeting assumes significance since officials of the two nations have not yet discussed the Kalapani border dispute due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The boundary dispute came to the fore when India published a new map following the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir into two Union Territories.
Thereafter, India opened a road from Dharchula to Lipulekh on the Mansarovar Yatra, which didn’t please the KP Sharma Oli government. Nepal, on its part, came out with a new map by adding to its boundaries an area of 370 sq km at the tri-junction of Nepal, India and China (Tibet) which India maintains is its territory.
A Constitution amendment Bill was passed by Nepal’s parliament to legitimize the alteration, that is, the addition of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura.
That led to breakdown of communication between India and Nepal.