Modi first Indian PM in Nepal in 17 years

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 25, 2014 00:19 IST

Ending a 17-year drought of no Indian PM visiting Nepal, Narendra Modi is set to embark on a two-day visit to Kathmandu on August 3 and 4. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj would be flying to Nepal on Friday to lay the ground for the visit.

Modi, it is learnt, was keen to end this anomaly in the bilateral relationship. When Nepal’s PM Sushil Koirala called to congratulate him after his win, he had extended an invitation. During their meeting in Delhi after the swearing in, Koirala reiterated the invite, reminding him of the lack of reciprocity from India even as many Nepali PMs had come to Delhi in this period. Koirala had added, “I hope your first visit is to the land of Pashupatinath.”

Though the honour of the first visit went to Thimpu, there is still a Pashupati link. The PM is keen to visit the temple on the fourth Monday of Shravan, considered holy in the Hindu calendar, which is why August 4 was chosen. But beyond the optics, a top-level diplomatic source told HT, the focus is on “deliverables”.

“We hope to use this opportunity to convey to Nepal our steadfast support in their political transition. We will also encourage them to expedite the Constitution-writing process,” the source said. Nepal’s first constituent assembly ended without drafting a statute and a second CA is in place.

There has been speculation about BJP’s stance on constitutional principles like republicanism and secularism since it shared links with the Hindu monarchy in the past. But a diplomatic source said, “There will be absolutely no pressure from our side on the specifics of the Constitution or a push-back.” A BJP source who tracks Nepal confirmed the same message, and added, “Modi is keen to use development instruments to push the relationship, and not get stuck in the past. His focus will be on connectivity and hydropower cooperation.”

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