Kathmandu : Despite the apparent bonhomie during Nepalese Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s maiden official visit to New Delhi this month and his assertion that it created trust between the two neighbours, Kathmandu has rejected a renewed request by India to open a second consulate in the country.
Besides the embassy in Kathmandu and a consulate in Birgunj in southern Nepal, New Delhi has long since seeking a second consulate in Nepalganj, citing the growing volume of trade through the southern town and the spurt in across-the-border traffic.
The call for a second consulate was also broached this April when Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna visited Nepal for three days to resume bilateral talks.
However, Nepal’s major political parties, including the ruling Maoists, have ruled out a second Indian consulate in Nepal.
Though the official line is that the volume of traffic and trade is still not sufficient to merit a third Indian mission, the rejection is due to diplomatic considerations.
Several other foreign governments have also conveyed to Nepal their interest in opening a second mission in southern Nepal. They include the US, China and Pakistan.
Besides being of strategic importance due to its proximity to the open border with India, Nepal’s Terai remains a hot bed of crime and armed revolts.
Nepal is therefore loath to allow any foreign government to have a foothold in the sensitive region.
However, India regards Nepalganj as a security concern as well due to the large number of madrassas there that have a number of foreign students and the use of Nepalganj by couriers to smuggle drugs, weapons and fake Indian currency notes to Indian cities.
India, Nepal’s biggest trade partner accounting for over 60 percent of Kathmandu’s trade with other countries, remains the only country so far to have a consulate in the country.