India-Nepal border demarcated 98 percent: Pranab (Lead)

November 25th, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 25 (IANS) The over 1,800-km open border between India and Nepal that is one of the biggest thorns in bilateral ties is being freshly demarcated with 98 percent of the new survey completed, Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here Tuesday, adding that all “differences and divergences” on border issues would be resolved soon.Mukherjee, the most senior Indian official to visit Nepal since the formation of a Maoist-led government in the Himalayan republic following elections in April, met Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” to discuss a wide gamut of bilateral issues, ranging from border disputes to Nepal’s aim to draft a new constitution in two years.

Describing the nearly 45-minute long talks as “extremely fruitful”, the Indian minister said 98 percent work to update the border between India and Nepal had been completed.

Nepal, he said, had asked for changes in “one or two places” and as soon as they were implemented, the plenipotentiaries of the two neighbouring countries would ink a new boundary map pact.

India and Nepal share a number of Himalayan rivers and the border between the two countries is demarcated on the basis of the river courses. However, as the rivers changed their path over the years, there has been growing allegations of encroachment by both sides.

Mukherjee also assured that “differences and divergences” over Susta and Kalapani, the two most contentious border areas, would also be resolved.

Susta lies in Nawalparasi district in west Nepal while Kalapani is in farwest Nepal’s Dharchula district. Nepal says India has encroached on Susta and the locals have formed a protest committee that threatens to begin an agitation next month.

Indian troops took position in Kalapani in 1962 after the India-China war. Now both sides claim the land belongs to them.

Mukherjee also conveyed the Indian government’s view to Prachanda that his Maoist party should work in consensus with the other major parties to draft the new constitution, that has to be ready by 2010, as well as integrate the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army with the state army, a task that is a key element of the peace pact that ended the 10-year armed insurrection in Nepal.

India is also willing to compensate Nepal for the damage wreaked by the Kosi river in August and rebuild the flood-damaged stretch of its lifeline, the East-West Highway that connects it with India.

Mukherjee reiterated that the washed away embankment on the Kosi, that India has agreed to rebuild with Nepal, would be completed by March 2009, as per the schedule drawn up by a joint technical team.

Mukherjee also discussed with Prachanda the growing deficit in India-Nepal trade, signing an updated extradition treaty, and assisting in other infrastructure projects like repairing the sole railway in south Nepal.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, who held talks with Mukherjee after the meeting with Prachanda, told the media that India had renewed its offer to repair and rebuild the old postal highway in the Terai and start a feasibility study on building an East-West railway that would provide better connectivity between the two countries.

The two sides have also discussed how to progress with the Naumure hydropower project, a 245 MW plant that India promised to the previous Girija Prasad Koirala government to build as grant in assistance.

Mukherjee will also visit Sunsari district in the Terai to inspect the ongoing work to rebuild the Kosi embankment as well as the integrated checkpost at Birgunj on the border, that is part of the IRs.8,530 million Indian initiative to upgrade 13 customs check points along its border with Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The visit comes at a time the Prachanda government has completed 100 days and the Maoist revolutionary himself survived a challenge to his leadership from a hardliner comrade in the party.

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