The fourth meeting of India-Nepal Joint Commission was held in New Delhi. The meet signals a crucial diplomatic step in bilateral relations.
The session was co-chaired by India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, MJ Akbar and Foreign Minister of Nepal, Prakash Sharan Mahat.
The meeting of the Joint Commission began with Foreign Secretaries of two sides leading their delegations.
The India-Nepal Joint Commission, chaired by External Affairs Ministers of India and Nepal, is viewed to be of the highest level.
The Joint Commission’s agenda includes review of the two countries’ relations, issuing directives to resolve pending issues and take needed steps towards consolidation of their ties.
Though the Joint Commission was formed in 1987, since then its meetings have not been held regularly. At the time of its formation, the two sides had agreed that Joint Commission would meet every two years in the two capitals. The Joint Commission met for the third time in Kathmandu in July 2014 after a gap of 23 years.
Compared to the 23-year hiatus between its second and third meeting, the fourth meeting has been held without much delay.
This symbolizes the two sides’ desire to further cement their ties and the importance accorded by them to their Joint Commission. This point is further supported by the frequent exchange of high level visits and interactions between the sides in recent past. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Nepal twice and has been invited to visit the country in near future.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been there four times. This year has seen Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Nepal visiting India. President Pranab Mukherjee’s Nepal visit is scheduled for next month. These interactions have played a crucial role in setting the tone of the meeting of the Joint Commission.
The entire range of Indo-Nepal bilateral ties was reviewed by the Joint Commission. The members also exchanged views on sub-regional, regional and international issues of mutual interest. They paid special attention to high level exchanges between the two countries, including decisions reached during the two visits of Indian Prime Minister in 2014 and the three visits of Nepalese Prime Minister, this year.
These symbolize the priority India accords to enhancing its ties with Nepal. The Joint Commission delved on bilateral cooperation in all areas and for taking steps to enhance their traditionally warm and close relations.
India and Nepal reviewed the progress made in their bilateral ties since the third meeting of the Joint Commission. These include areas such as trade, transit, mutual investments, defence and security, border management, power, water resources, agriculture, cross-border transport facilitation, education, cultural and youth exchanges, tourism, railways, infrastructure development, capacity building and human resource development as well as among others, promotion of people-to-people contacts.
Projects covered under the Lines of Credits were also reviewed by the Joint Commission. Both sides decided to address bottlenecks and expedite their implementation. They agreed to closely monitor the progress of all development and infrastructure projects, including roads in Terai region, cross-border rail links, integrated check-posts, cross-border transmission line projects, hydro-power project and cross-border oil pipeline.
India expressed its willingness to move forward expeditiously on post-earthquake reconstruction projects. India’s assistance package for this purpose is $ one billion.
The Joint Commission focussed on expediting implementation of all ongoing bilateral projects. For this purpose, the Joint Commission agreed to convene the first meeting of the ‘joint oversight mechanism’ comprising officials of both the countries very soon.
This mechanism’s primary purpose is to clear bottlenecks in India-funded projects in Nepal. This clearly suggests that New Delhi and Kathmandu are keenly interested in development and consolidation of their ties.
The Joint Commission’s fourth meeting is reflective of progress in Indo-Nepal bilateral ties. This point is well supported by the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s state visit to Nepal from 2 to 4 November 2016 at the invitation of the President of Nepal. It would be the first visit of Indian President to Nepal in a period of 18 years.