Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli held a telephonic conversation on Saturday, in the first high-level contact after ties between the two countries came under severe strain following issuance of a new political map by the Himalayan nation in May.
Oli called up Modi and greeted the government and people of India on the country's 74th Independence Day, an official statement said. It said Oli also conveyed to Modi his congratulations for India's recent election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Modi offered India's continued support to Nepal in its fight against the pandemic and recalled the civilizational and cultural links that the two countries share, it said. "The leaders expressed mutual solidarity in the context of the efforts being made to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries. Prime Minister offered India's continued support to Nepal in this regard," the statement said.
It said Modi thanked Oli for his telephone call. The telephonic conversation between the two leaders came two days before Indian Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Nepal's Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi are scheduled to hold talks under a bilateral framework.
It is not known whether issues relating to the border row figured in the talks between Modi and Oli. The ties between the two countries came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.
Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory. Days later, Nepal came out with the new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories. In June, Nepal's Parliament approved the new political map of the country featuring areas which India maintains belong to it.
In its reaction, after Nepal's lower house of parliament approved the bill, India termed as untenable the "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims by the neighbouring country. India said Nepal's action violates an understanding reached between the two countries to resolve the boundary issues through talks.
Oli has been asserting that Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura belong to Nepal and vowed to "reclaim" them from India.