Sushil Koirala’s death won’t affect Nepal PM’s India visit

  • Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Feb 10, 2016 19:41 IST
The body of Nepali Congress Party president Sushil Koirala (L) is covered in flowers as tributes are paid to him in Kathmandu. (AFP)

The sudden death of former prime minister Sushil Koirala will not affect Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s upcoming visit to India, officials said on Wednesday.

Plans are afoot for Oli to fly into the Indira Gandhi international airport on February 19 for a five-day official visit – his first foreign trip since assuming office in October.

“We are preparing for the visit for the past few weeks. Since there are still some days for the trip to start, it is unlikely that the dates would be changed,” Gopal Khanal, Oli’s foreign affairs adviser, told Hindustan Times.

Indian embassy officials too confirmed Oli will reach New Delhi on February 19.

Nepal declared three days of state mourning from Tuesday in honour of Koirala, under whose leadership the country’s first democratically drafted constitution was promulgated in September.

The last rites of Koirala, who was the head of the Nepali Congress party, were performed at the cremation area of Pashupatinath Temple on Wednesday afternoon with state honours. The government declared a holiday as a mark of respect.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj led an all-party delegation to Kathmandu on Tuesday to pay last respects to Koirala.

During her interaction with Oli before leaving for New Delhi the same evening, Swaraj said India is looking forward to welcoming him soon.

Oli has been invited to India twice by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But strains in bilateral ties due to the Madhesi protests against the new constitution had put a cloud over the trip.

Unhappy with the statute, Madhesi parties blocked key border points with India last September, leading to an acute shortage of essential goods and petroleum products.

Despite India’s denials, Kathmandu accused New Delhi of imposing an unofficial blockade to support the Madhesis, residents of the Terai region bordering India who share close family and cultural ties across the border.

Last month, Oli told a group of editors he would not visit India till the crisis at home had blown over.

The blockade at Birganj, the main trade route between the two sides, was forcibly removed by Indian traders last week. Madhesi parties officially lifted the blockade and there is now smooth flow of traffic.

Nepal’s finance minister Bishnu Poudel made a three-day visit to New Delhi earlier this month to prepare the ground for Oli’s trip.

India had promised Nepal $1 billion in aid during Modi’s visit to Kathmandu in 2014 and another $1 billion for the reconstruction of areas devastated by last year’s earthquakes. Deals on using these amounts are expected to be signed during Oli’s visit.

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