Saturday was mixed with high hopes and sadness in Nepal’s capital. Hopes from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal from Sunday, and anxieties because of a landslide in Sunkoshi river , which has led to loss of lives and property.
Speaking to HT, Maoist leader and former Nepal prime minister Baburam Bhattarai said Modi’s visit could mark a new beginning in bilateral ties. He said India must continue to support efforts to write a Federal Democratic Republican constitution in its own ‘enlightened national interest’. “Modi’s win was primarily because of his development agenda. Nepal and India too should move forward on this agenda, deepening trade and investment ties,” Bhattarai said.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Kamal Thapa, whose party advocates return to monarchy and Hindu state and is the fourth largest force in the constituent assembly, said he was looking forward to meeting Modi and the visit indicated that India was according high political attention to neighbours. “But I will not seek his support for our agenda. This is purely an internal matter, to be decided by Nepali people.”
Modi’s schedule is tightly packed. He will first meet his counterpart Sushil Koirala at Singha Durbar, the government secretariat. He will then become the first foreign head of government since 1990 to address the Nepal parliament. In the evening, Indian ambassador, Ranjit Rae, will host a reception followed by Koirala’s state banquet in Modi’s honour.
On Monday morning, the PM will visit Pashupatinath temple and then have meetings with four of Nepal’s political formations — Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), Maoists and Madhesi leaders — separately. He will also meet private sector business leaders. President Ram Baran Yadav will host a lunch for him.
Kathmandu’s streets are fluttering with India and Nepal’s flags, there is enormous media focus on the visit and citizens are waiting for a glimpse of Modi.
But the Sunkoshi tragedy — a landslide that has blocked the river, raising concerns about its impact to Bihar — has caused a crisis. The natural disaster is a reminder of the linked fates of Nepal and India, and the way geography has tied the countries together.