Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s government is keen to move forward on its relationship with India and could take a positive view on a travel air bubble with India and the Pancheshwar multi-modal project after foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s two-day visit, people familiar with the matter said. Shringla had a 50-minute one-on-one conversation with PM Oli on November 26 that saw the two countries focusing on steps to normalise relations hit hard due to the Lipu Lekh boundary row.
“They are keen to move forward on the relationship and will send some positive signals in this regard. But they also want the boundary issue to be discussed,” a senior official said. As the first step to deepen bilateral cooperation, the two countries could set up the travel air bubble and revive negotiations over the Pancheshwar multi-modal project. Foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali is expected to be India in December for which the dates are being worked out.
Relations between the two neighbours had nosedived this year after Nepal opposed an 80 km-border road to Lipulekh region that is claimed by Nepal. Kathmandu responded by issuing a new map that showed Indian territories of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepal.
For the last few months, the two countries have been taking quiet steps to restore the ties. India does not want to vacate the space in Nepal and allow China to create additional leverages in the Himalayan Republic.
But diplomats in New Delhi and Kathmandu suggest there is some concern that China, which does appear to wield influence over Nepal’s politics and economy, could hold back Kathmandu