KATHMANDU, Jan. 28 (Nepal Foreign Affairs): Amid diplomatic standoff with India, the Nepal government has formed the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Nepal-India relations, officials said on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs forwarded a proposal to the Cabinet some two weeks ago to set up the EPG, officials said.
The formation of the EPG comes at a time when the bilateral relations between the two countries has marked a new low following the unofficial trade embargo imposed by India since Nepal promulgated the new Constitution on September 20 last year.
The EPG members will give inputs to the government to improve bilateral relations with India ahead Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s forthcoming visit to India on the third week of February.
The new mechanism is expected to work out in finding solutions to improve the bilateral relations between the two countries, officials said.
Former Secretary Surya Nath Upadhaya, Nepal’s Former Ambassador Bhes Bahadur Thapa, Former Ambassador Nilambar Acharya and UML Lawmaker Rajan Bhattarai are the members of the EPG from the Nepal side.
The EPG is mandated to review, replace and update the bilateral treaties with India including the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty as agreed during the third Nepal-India Joint Commission meeting held in July 2014 in Kathmandu.
The meeting agreed to form the group comprising four members from each side and set up secretariats in Kathmandu and New Delhi. At the meeting, the two sides had also agreed on the need for reviewing, adjusting and updating the 1950 treaty and other bilateral agreements reflecting the current realities.
On the occasion, the two sides had proposed to allocate US $ 100,000 each to run the secretariat comprising a parliamentarian, a lawyer, an economist and a civil society leader in both sides.
The EPG is expected to hold consultations with various stakeholders in the both countries for inputs into strengthening bilateral ties and submit the report to foreign secretaries of the respective countries.
“The joint commission decided that the matter would be discussed at the Foreign Secretary-level mechanism which will meet within six months after Nepali side provides a specific proposal,” reads the minute of the Joint Commission meeting.
Nepal and India, during Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s India visit in 2011, had agreed to form the group comprising eminent persons from diverse backgrounds to review or update or replace the treaty through mutual understanding.