In another sign that the new Indian government's foreign policy will give importance to its neighbours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met a visiting member of Nepal's constituent assembly, Amresh Kumar Singh, on Thursday at his residence to discuss bilateral relations.
Modi assured Singh he would visit Nepal soon. The PM promised to strengthen economic co-operation and enquired about the political situation in Kathmandu, including the role of the Maoists.
Singh, an elected Nepali Congress MP from Tarai region bordering Bihar, told HT after the meeting: "He welcomed me very warmly. I urged him to deepen the political links with Nepal because in the past few years, this relationship has been left to bureaucrats."
Singh added he had reiterated Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala's invitation to Modi to come to Nepal since no Indian PM has paid a bilateral visit to the country for the past 17 years. "I said we hoped you would come to Pashupatinath first. Modiji asked about the most auspicious day to pray there, and added he would soon pay a visit," Singh said.
PM Modi, it is learnt, asked about the state of the constitution-writing process in Nepal. Singh briefed him on the debates around federalism, the key contentious issue in Nepal at the moment, and the demands of the Madhesi people of the plains.
"Nepal has a unique peace process which started in India. We need India's support to write the constitution and keep the Maoists in the mainstream," Singh said.
Modi asked Singh if the Nepali Maoists had totally ended their violence. "I told him the Maoists are now an integral part of the democratic process," the Nepal MP said.
While the Nepali media has been rife with speculation over whether the BJP-led government would push for a reversal of secularism and revival of Hindu rashtra in the country, the subject did not come up for discussion at Thursday’s meeting.
Singh, who has been an active participant in negotiations between India, Nepali Congress and Maoists, also met foreign secretary Sujatha Singh during his visit.