India, Nepal to sign updated extradition treaty

November 26th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 26 (IANS) Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee ended his three-day visit to Nepal Wednesday with an agreement to strengthen bilateral agencies for greater security, including signing an updated extradition treaty. “We discussed security concerns and agreed to address these effectively by strengthening bilateral mechanisms in this area,” the Indian minister said at a joint press conference with Nepal’s Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav before his departure.

There would be better management of the 1,800 km open border between India and Nepal and both the neighbours would soon sign an updated extradition treaty with a new agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

The updated extradition treaty was held in abeyance after Pakistan objected to it. Islamabad had also demanded that if Nepal signed the pact, it would also like to ink a similar treaty with Kathmandu.

Last year, during the government of the then Girija Prasad Koirala government, then home minister Krishna Prasad Situala was scheduled to visit New Delhi and sign the treaty. But Sitaula’s visit was put off at the last moment due to objections by the Maoists.

The continued terror attacks in India have also caused New Delhi to seek better regulated borders with its neighbours Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Of the 13 border checkposts with the four countries that are to be upgraded at a cost of Indian Rs.8.5 billion (approx $172 million) by the Indian government, four are in Nepal.

On Wednesday, Mukherjee, the first Indian minister to visit Nepal since the historic election in April that ended royal rule, visited the busiest India-Nepal checkpost at Birgunj on the border.

India has also assured support for the economic and social development of Nepal’s troubled Terai plains, including assisting infrastructure projects like upgrading and building a Terai net of highways, upgrading the existing railway and aiding a feasibility study on constructing an east-west railway.

While Mukherjee said he was leaving satisfied with his visit, it was also a pat on the back for the Maoist government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda with India asking former prime minister and opposition leader Koirala to work in consensus with the ruling party for the writing of a new constitution by 2010 that would fulfil people’s aspirations.

The high-level visit is also likely to boost Indo-Nepal trade and investment.

Mukherjee, who met the representatives of the Indian business community in Nepal and was apprised of their labour and security troubles, said he had taken up the matter with the Prachanda government and had been assured action.

On the cards is more Indian investment in Nepal’s hydropower sector. Nepal is aiming to generate 10,000 MW in the next decade and Mukherjee indicated that India’s public and private sector would extend “mutually beneficial cooperation”.

The Indian minister allayed concerns that the Indian government, that had in the past shown its preference for the Koirala government, would blow cold towards the Maoists.

“We have a unique relationship with Nepal,” he said. “It will be strengthened.”

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