An Indian advance team comprising security, protocol and foreign ministry officials arrived in Nepal on Thursday to prepare for President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit beginning on November 2.
Mukherjee’s visit will be the first by an Indian president in almost two decades. Then President KR Narayanan had visited Nepal in 1997.
Mukherjee is considered an old Nepal hand with extensive political contacts in Kathmandu, which were developed when he served as external affairs minister while Nepal was undergoing a major transition from monarchy to a republic.
He has visited Nepal many times in different capacities and enjoys very cordial relations with the country’s political leadership.
Once the Indian team, headed by the chief of protocol of the external affairs ministry, returns home, a formal announcement regarding the visit will be made, said Nepali and Indian officials.
Mukherjee is expected to make a three-day visit at the invitation of his Nepali counterpart Bidhya Devi Bhandari. He will visit Kathmandu, Janakpur, Pokhara and Lumbini during the trip.
Janakpur and Lumbini are famous religious sites for Hindus and Buddhists and Pokhara is a scenic city known for its lakes.
Mukherjee will be accorded a civic reception in Janakpur at the famous Ram-Janaki temple. He is also scheduled to lay the foundation for a portion of the Hulaki Road ( Postal Road) in Janakpur, which is part of a flagship project to build more than 1,700 km of roads in Nepal’s Terai region.
President Bhandari will visit Janakpur to oversee preparations for the civic reception, said chief district officer Dilip Kumar Chapagain. “We have formed many local committees in order to give a rousing welcome to the Indian president,” he said.
In Kathmandu, Mukherjee will meet Bhandari and other senior political leaders. He will also address a function at Kathmandu University and another event organised by India Foundation, a think tank initiated by BJP leader Ram Madhav.
The government of former prime minister KP Sharma Oli abruptly cancelled Bhandari’s scheduled visit to India in May, citing “lack of preparations and pressing domestic issues”. As a result, there was uncertainty over the Indian president’s visit to Nepal.
Kathmandu witnessed a change of regime in August and Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” replaced Oli as the prime minister. Immediately after taking office, Prachanda sent two envoys to New Delhi and Beijing and extended invitations to the heads of state of both countries to visit Nepal.