EPG may wrap up work today

Jun 30, 2018-The Eminent Persons’ Group on Nepal-India relations, which is mandated to provide suggestions for resetting ties and revising bilateral treaties, is likely to conclude its work on Saturday as both sides have agreed to make the ongoing two-day meeting their last.

On the first day of their ninth meeting held in Kathmandu on Friday, both sides discussed ways to bring out a single joint report recommending alternatives to some of the disputed issues including the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship.

The Nepali side is said to have urged the Indian team to make the meeting last while calling for a single report. A positive response from the Indian team led to a consensus. As the two-year term of the EPG expires on July 4, there were considerations to seek a brief tenure extension. After the meeting on Friday, possibility of a new term beyond July 4 has ended, according to sources.

Both sides have agreed to suggest the governments of Nepal and India replacement of the 1950 Treaty by a new one. They are giving finishing touches to the suggestions on what to do with some disputed clauses of the treaty.

The meeting is taking place in a positive atmosphere, said Bhekh Bhadaur Thapa, coordinator of the Nepali side of the EPG, without divulging much on the outcome. After Friday’s meeting, the two sides sat separately to prepare for Saturday’s session.

The respective sides are learnt to have presented their positions on some of the provisions of the treaty, boundary matters and water resources, among others. The first EPG meeting held in Kathmandu had identified five areas—political issues, government-to-government relations, cultural issues, trade and connectivity—for discussion.

After preparing the joint report, the eight EPG members will submit it to their governments for implementation. In the past meetings, the Nepali side presented facts arguing for the need to review the 1950 Treaty calling it outdated and impractical. The Nepali side has pitched for revising articles 2, 5, 6 and 7 of the treaty.

Historically, the treaty has been one of the most contentious issues in Nepal-India relations. The treaty provides equal opportunities for the citizens of both sides in jobs and property in either country.

It is said that the ‘Peace and Friendship Treaty’ will have a new name agreed to by both sides. Provisions of an open border and restrictions on Nepal’s defense purchases from a third country are matters under discussion. More broadly, issue of security, trade and economic cooperation, transit, people to people contact and cultural relations are also being reviewed.

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