A day after the Nepal government officially announced that India had conveyed PM Narendra Modi’s visits to temple towns were cancelled, Kathmandu has pulled out all stops to make the visit happen.
Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala phoned PM Modi late Friday night to re-extend the invitation. Koirala said that all arrangements were in place for Modi’s visit. PM Modi, HT has learnt, did not commit and said he would consult his officials.
The Indian side said the official programme was not yet final even as Janakpur — a key Tarai town Modi was to visit on November 25 before heading to attend the 18th Saarc summit in Kathmandu— saw a strike against the Nepal government for mismanaging the episode.
HT was the first to report that India’s informal message had thrown the Nepal government into a tizzy; that Kathmandu would reiterate the invitation to Modi and offer an alternative bigger public ground in Janakpur as a venue for a Modi address, as well as provide for deployment of 10,000 security personnel. The Nepalese PM had also decided to come to Janakpur to receive Modi.
These decisions were formally conveyed to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu on Friday.
Nepal’s deputy PM and home minister Bamdev Gautam, who had earlier opposed a public address, was the one to request Indian embassy early on Friday to ensure Modi visited Janakpur, Lumbini and Muktinath.
Meanwhile, preparations to welcome PM Modi are underway in Janakpur — the birthplace of Sita in Nepal. Beautification of the Janaki Temple is being carried out in full swing and security measures have been beefed up.
“We are busy with our preparations as we have not received any official confirmation about cancellation of the visit,” Nepal’s home secretary Surya Prasad Silwal told journalists Janakpur on Friday.
Silwal said preparations were on for a public meeting at Barabigah, a public ground.
The government had earlier organised a smaller gathering at Janaki temple for Modi — and even blamed the opposition for disrupting the environment by insisting on the Barabigha venue. However, fear that the visit might not happen, coupled with public and political pressure from Tarai towns saw the government making a quick U-turn.
Nepal’s foreign minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said on Friday that his ministry hasn’t received any information about the cancellation. “There is no diplomatic correspondence about any change in Modi’s plan to visit Janakpur. We are making all preparations to welcome him,” he said.
Official sources said Modi had limited time because of heavy domestic responsibilities, including the poll campaign in Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir. But the external affairs ministry has scheduled a briefing on Saturday where it will make PM’s final schedule public.