"The Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship treaty is at the heart of the discussions of the Eminent Persons Group from both sides," Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, the former foreign minister of Nepal, told Catch in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the second meeting of the EPG in New Delhi recently.
While there is a belief that the treaty is already tilted in favour of Nepal, Thapa, who coordinates the group from the Nepalese side, says, "that there may be the feeling on this side" and that the Nepalese have a different view.
The group's - which has four eminent people from both countries - mandate includes a review of all instruments including the bilateral trade and connectivity agreements.
After a tumultuous phase during KP Sharma Oli's term as the prime minister, Indo-Nepal relations have recently seen some positive signs after Pushpa Kamal Dahal took over recently. "The relationship is growing," Thapa says. However, the constitution of the EPG goes back to Oli's term.
Meanwhile, according to reports in the Nepalese press, Thapa has presented a proposal seeking to amend the treaty that was signed in 1950. The key clauses of the treaty that Thapa put for discussion reportedly include the need for India's consent for defence purchases from third countries, recruitment of Gorkha soldiers and preferences to India in the development of Nepal's natural resources.
In this conversation with Catch, Thapa also recalls King Birendra's tenure and how India had gone for a blockade in protest of Nepal buying arms from China.
Alleging that Indo-Nepal relations suffer from a hangover of big country-small country attitude, he says, "Punishing a regime for their actions eventually affects the people at large, leaving a deep impression or wounds. One doesn't expect this from a friend," Thapa says.
About the recent blockade which the Nepalese government had blamed India, he says, "It came on the heels of a major earthquake, and after two successful visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," adding that it has left a scar on the people of Nepal.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu