Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba discussed India-Nepal boundary issues with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting on Saturday in Delhi.
He urged Modi to establish a bilateral mechanism to resolve the issues, said Deuba in his statement to media in the presence of his Indian counterpart. Later in a media briefing, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said there was a general understanding that the issue has to be addressed through dialogue and its politicisation should be avoided.
Shringla's comments on the need for avoiding politicisation of the boundary row assume significance as the then Nepal's Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli in 2020 attempted to use the issue to fend off increasing domestic pressure and challenge his leadership.
Many political observers even accused Oli of triggering the boundary row at the behest of China as his government was seen to be getting closer to Beijing at the cost of Nepal's decades-old ties with India.
Oli was removed from power in July last year after which Deuba became prime minister. Deuba arrived in New Delhi on Friday in his first bilateral visit abroad after becoming prime minister for the fifth time.
"We discussed the boundary issues and I urged Modiji to resolve it through the establishment (of) bilateral mechanism," said Deuba after the talks.
On his part, Modi said it was discussed that the open borders between India and Nepal are not misused by undesirable elements.
He said, "We discussed that the open borders between India and Nepal are not misused by undesirable elements. We emphasised on deepening of cooperation between our defence and security authorities. I am confident that our talks today will be able to attain the objective of achieving the ambitious targets of the India-Nepal ties."
Ties between the two countries came under severe strain after Kathmandu published a new political map in 2020 that showed the three Indian territories of Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh as part of Nepal.
India reacted sharply, calling it a "unilateral act" and cautioned Kathmandu that such "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it.
Shringla said on Saturday, "The issue was briefly discussed. There was a general understanding that both sides needed to address this in a responsible manner through discussion and dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly relations and politicisation of such issues needs to be avoided."
Shringla was replying to a question on the issue at a media briefing on the Modi-Deuba talks.
"I think there was a sense that we should address it through discussion and dialogue," he added.
The talks between India and Nepal came days after the Chinese Foreign Minister visited India and Nepal.
The foreign secretary cited the resolution of maritime and land boundary issues between India and Bangladesh to emphasise that the matter with Nepal will also be sorted out amicably.
"You have seen that we have sorted out the land as well as maritime boundary issue with Bangladesh and it was sorted out in a very amicable manner. We had a mechanism for it," he said.
Shringla said, similarly, India has several mechanisms with Nepal to discuss issues involving both sides.
"The two sides had a brief discussion and generally felt that in order to start addressing the issue, we need to have dialogue and discussion in a responsible manner and that's something we will engage in," he said.
"And we have no doubt that between the two close and friendly countries, we will find a way," he said.
The row started after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand in May 2020.
Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory. Days later, it came out with a new political map of the country that featured Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh.
Shringla visited Nepal in November 2020 with an aim to reset the ties. Shringla's trip was followed by a visit to India by Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Nepal's foreign minister at the time.
Nepal shares a border of over 1850 km with five Indian states - Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar, Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The renewed momentum in bilateral ties was visible with Modi saying that the ties between India and Nepal are unique and such a relationship is not seen anywhere else in the world.
"The friendship of India and Nepal, the relationships of our people, such an example is not seen anywhere else in the world. Our civilization, our culture, the threads of our exchanges are connected since ancient times," he said.
"We have been companions of each other's happiness and sorrows since time immemorial. The basis of our partnership is the mutual relations between our people and the exchanges between them. These give energy to our relations, maintain them," he said.
With PTI inputs