Nepal reaches out, India says will re-route truckshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/nepal-constitutional-crisis-dy-pm-kamal-thapa-meets-sushma-swaraj/

Nepal reaches out, India says will re-route trucks

Thapa's visit comes at a "difficult" time for India and Nepal ties after Kathmandu alleged that New Delhi has imposed an economic blockade on the country following the announcement of its new Constitution.

Nepal Deputy Prime Minister Thapa with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Image: MEA India
Nepal Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Image: MEA India

Nepal’s new government led by Prime Minister K P Oli extended an olive branch to India on Sunday, as its Deputy PM Kamal Thapa told External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that Kathmandu was ready to resolve outstanding political differences through “dialogue” at an early date, sources told The Indian Express.

New Delhi agreed to let 300 trucks carrying fuel supplies enter Nepal through border crossing points apart from Raxaul, where the situation is particularly tense.

When Swaraj met Thapa at about 12.30 pm at Hyderabad House on Sunday, she is learnt to have asked him about the “political situation” in Nepal and the concerns of the “disaffected population” — which includes the Madhesis and Janjatis.

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Thapa, who is likely to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, briefed her on the situation and gave the Indian side an understanding about the “constitutional amendments” that the ruling coalition is planning to bring in Nepal’s Parliament. These are expected to address some of the grievances and concerns of the Madhesis, who have been protesting in the Terai region over the last two months.

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Thapa, according to sources, asked Swaraj, “Can you help us… since Dashain (Nepal’s Dussehra festival) is here?”

Swaraj is learnt to have replied, “It is not in my hands… wherever we can, we will be able to help. But Indian truckers are complaining bitterly about waiting at the borders, since there is unrest on Nepal’s side of the border.”

At this point, Thapa is learnt to have requested Swaraj to let 300 trucks of fuel supplies, which are stuck at the Raxaul border crossing, be re-routed through other points. Swaraj is understood to have given her consent, and said that India had no issues about such re-routing, provided Nepal’s border infrastructure at other crossing points was ready to handle such heavy cargo movement.

Sources said the meeting was “good and positive”, and pointed out that the Nepal embassy’s statement did not mention the “blockade” but said the ministers discussed “easing of obstruction of cargo vehicles to Nepal”.

Sources said the two sides were “flexible” in their position and the Indian side conveyed that “peace and reconciliation” is necessary for the “stability” of Nepal — an apparent reference to the Madhesi agitation.

“The meeting remained positive. I am confident that initiatives would be taken to resolve our mutual problems,” Thapa was quoted by Nepalese media as saying.

Thapa also met Home Minister Rajnath Singh, NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.