India and Nepal on Monday held a virtual meeting to discuss ongoing bilateral economic and developmental projects in the Himalayan nation, ANI reported. This was the first major engagement after relations between both the countries took a turn for the worse over Nepal’s new political map that asserted its control over the disputed Kalapani region.

The discussion between Indian ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi were held under the oversight mechanism, set up in 2016 to review progress in bilateral projects across Nepal. The meeting was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reports said the oversight mechanism could not meet earlier because of transfer-related changes in the Indian embassy. This is the seventh edition under the arrangement.

This came two days after Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli called up his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to wish him on the occasion of Independence Day. An official statement from Nepal said that Oli sought “meaningful bilateral cooperation” with India. Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs said both Oli and Modi discussed efforts to minimise the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Map row

Earlier this month, the Nepal had said that it will send its political map that claimed Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh of Uttarakhand as part of its sovereign territory, to India, Google and the international community by mid-August. At least 25,000 copies of the new political map, which was released on May 20, have been distributed around the country.

The areas that Nepal has included in its map are at the centre of its border dispute with India. Nepal maintains that India has claimed these places by building the Darchula-Lipulekh link road despite repeated objections. India, on the other hand, has said that the road is within its territory.

After the map was launched, India had asked Nepal to refrain from using it to assert its territorial claims. It had slammed the move as an “artificial enlargement” and not based on historical facts and evidence.

Nepal first revived its claim over the areas in November after India published a new political map. This was intensified on May 8 when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the Dharchula-Lipulekh link road.