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Nepal-India border issue figured during NCP’s high-level meeting

KATHMANDU: Nepal-India border dispute and a proposed USD 500 million US grant assistance to Kathmandu were among the major issues discussed during the ongoing meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s powerful Standing Committee here on Saturday, sources said.

Nepal last week completed the process of redrawing the country’s political map through a Constitutional amendment, incorporating three strategically important Indian areas.

India has termed as “untenable” the “artificial enlargement” of the territorial claims by Nepal after its Parliament unanimously approved the new political map of the country featuring Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura areas which India maintains belong to it.

On Saturday, most of the speakers of the 48-member Standing Committee deliberated on the Nepal-India border issue and described the government’s recent move to redraw the country’s political map incorporating Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura through Constitution amendment as “measures to consolidating Nepal’s national unity and sovereignty”, according to sources.

They, however, raised questions on the government’s inability to hold talks with India on the border issue.

Speaking at the meeting, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali claimed that India did not show any interest in holding a dialogue with Nepal on the border issue despite Kathmandu’s repeated efforts, according to senior leader of the NCP Ganesh Shah, who was also present at the meeting.

“Nepal seeks to resolve the border dispute through political dialogue and will continuously initiate for talks to resolve the matter through dialogue,” Gyawali said.

Even Indian television channels and print media are highlighting the border issue, he told the meeting.

The India-Nepal bilateral ties came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.

Nepal reacted sharply to the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through Nepalese territory.

India rejected the claim asserting that the road lies completely within its territory.

The Standing Committee will meet again on Tuesday, in which besides the border dispute other issues such as containing the coronavirus, the citizenship bill, US Millennium Challenge Corporation and evaluation of the government’s performance will mainly figure, Shah told PTI.

Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, who faced criticism within his party for skipping the first and the second day of the Standing Committee meetings held at the Prime Minister’s official residence at Baluwatar, attended the meeting on Saturday, but briefly.

His aides said that he could not attend the earlier meetings due to his other busy schedule and health reason.

Oli briefly attended Saturday’s meeting and left the venue, citing health reason, the sources said, adding that he did not speak at the meeting.

Prime Minister Oli’s absence in the first two days of the meetings showed the growing differences between him and party’s executive chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, a senior NCP leader said on condition of anonymity.

Prachanda has time and again spoke about lack of coordination between the government and the party and he was pressing for one-man one position system to be followed by the NCP.

The way the Oli government is handling the coronavirus outbreak is one of the key issues on which the two leaders have differences.

Prime Minister Oli had turned deaf ear towards Prachanda’s advice to form an all-party committee to monitor the country’s COVID-19 situation and the government’s strategy to contain it.

It is also learnt that Oli wants the Parliament to ratify the USD 500 million US Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement while the rival faction wants it to be ratified only after some amendments to the deal.

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