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India-Nepal ties are back on track

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Foreign Secretary to visit Kathmandu on Nov 26

BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, November 10:

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla will visit Nepal this month-end for the delayed formal dialogue between the two countries, according to informed sources.

Analysts see this as a sign that New Delhi is willing to go an extra mile to improve bilateral ties that had nosedived earlier this year.

The decision to send the foreign secretary comes days after Indian Army Chief General M.M Naravane’s visit to Kathmandu, during which he was conferred the honorary rank of general of Nepali Army.

When Gen Naravane met Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, the latter had underscored that the two countries could resolve all problems between them through dialogue since India and Nepal have a long-standing special relationship.

Oli had faced resistance within his cabinet to Gen Naravane’s visit but had dealt with it, by taking over the defence portfolio from deputy prime minister Ishwar Pokhrel.

Gen Naravane’s visit was crucial, because he was the first one within the Indian government to react to protests by Nepal’s government over a border road India built in Uttarakhand. In May, he had said it was very possible that Nepal had raised the issue at someone else’s behest. The remark was interpreted to imply that Beijing could have prodded Nepal to create a new boundary dispute with India.

People familiar with the discussions said Prime Minister Oli did make a pointed reference to the fallout of the row over Nepal’s political map, describing it as a “misunderstanding”. At the same time, he did underline that Nepal takes its sovereignty very seriously, a remark that is being seen in New Delhi to explain his decision to issue a fresh political map.

During his two-day visit on November 26 and 27, Shringla hold meetings with his counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal (who took charge just last month) and Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. He will call on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Oli.

Shringla’s conversations in Nepal are also expected to lead both sides to finalise the schedule for the meeting of the Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee.

“This is not a single-agenda visit,” a senior diplomat said. The visit could see India committing to help Nepal with coronavirus vaccines once its production starts. The two sides will also discuss the revival of the Pancheshwar multi-purpose project on river Mahakali as well as other hydro-electric projects.

India had been holding off on Harsh Shringla’s visit for most of this year to convey New Delhi’s displeasure over the communist government’s move to issue a new political map that included the Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani areas from India’s Uttarakhand state. New Delhi had rejected the map, brushing away what it had said was Nepal’s effort at a cartographic expansion.

Nepal had been working at mollifying New Delhi for some time, and withdrew school textbooks that contained the new political map. Last month, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) Chief Samant Kumar Goel had done the groundwork for restoring ties during his visit to the Himalayan nation.



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UNDP: Rs 600 bn tax cut a huge mistake

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Director of the Sustainable Finance Hub of the UNDP Marcos Neto has called the decision to do away with a range of taxes here a fundamental mistake committed by Sri Lanka.The comment was made at the Parliament complex during an interactive dialogue on ‘Revenue Generation as a Pathway to Sri Lanka’s Economic Recovery’ on Tuesday (09). It was organised on a request by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, former Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Opposition as well as several other parties alleged that the government had lost as much as Rs 600 bn due to the controversial decision to do away with a range of taxes including PAYE, NBT (Nation Building Tax), Withholding tax, Capital Gain tax imposed on the Colombo Stock Exchange, Bank Debit tax and unprecedented reduction of VAT (Value Added Tax). The 15% VAT and the 2% NBT which amounted to 17% imposed on all goods and services were unified and reduced to 8%, effective from the first of December 2019.

The decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting of the Gotabaya Rajapaksa government on 27 Nov. 2019.Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe is on record as having said that the powers that be ignored the IMF warning not to do so and also the immediate need to restructure Sri Lanka’s debt (SF)

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Debate on power tariff hike on 29 Aug.

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Party leaders have decided to debate the electricity tariff hikes in parliament on 29 August.The date was fixed for the debate following a request by the main opposition SJB.The debate will be held from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm on 29 August.

Chief Opposition Whip Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella told Parliament on Wednesday (10) that as per the proposed tariff hike the monthly electricity bill of domestic consumers would increase by 75 percent to 125 percent. “This is unbearable. This is like sending the people to an electric chair while they are struggling to make ends meet amidst a massive increase in cost of living.

How does this government expect people would be able to pay such an exorbitant price for electricity? We demand a debate in parliament before this proposed tariff hike is implemented,” Kiriella said.

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British national to be deported

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has ordered Kayleigh Fraser, a British national whose passport has been taken into custody after she posted on social media anti-government protests, for violating her visa conditions, to leave the country by 15 August. The Department has already cancelled her visa.

Earlier this month Immigration and Emigration officials visited Fraser at her home and took her passport into custody. The Department said Fraser had been in Sri Lanka for medical reasons since 2019. She had returned home several times, it said.

The Immigration and Emigration officers told her to visit them within the next seven days.Fraser on 02 August said that a group of immigration officers had visited her and asked for her travel document. She said that officials told her that they would return her passport when she visited the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Fraser added that she had received an anonymous call asking her to leave Sri Lanka as soon as possible before facing ‘big problems.’ Immigration officials visited her house a few days after the call.

Fraser has shared a number of photographs and videos from the ‘Gota Go Gama’ site. Human Rights groups and activists have accused the Sri Lankan government of using Emergency regulations to harass and arbitrarily detain activists seeking political reform and accountability for the country’s economic crisis.

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