Nepal president breaks protocol to give Pranab a warm welcome | india-news | Hindustan Times
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Nepal president breaks protocol to give Pranab a warm welcome

Nepal on Wednesday pulled out all the stops in welcoming President Pranab Mukherjee as he began a three-day state visit, the first by an Indian head of state in 18 years aimed at cementing bilateral ties.

india Updated: Nov 02, 2016 21:02 IST
Pranab Mukherjee
President Pranab Mukherjee with his Nepalese counterpart Bidhya Devi Bhandari during his ceremonial reception in Kathmandu on Wednesday.(PTI)

Nepal on Wednesday pulled out all the stops in welcoming President Pranab Mukherjee as he began a three-day state visit, the first by an Indian head of state in 18 years aimed at cementing bilateral ties.

Breaking protocol, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari received Mukherjee at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan international airport with vice president Nanda Bahadur Pun and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”.

After a 21-gun salute and a guard of honour presented by a contingent of the Nepalese Army, Mukherjee and Bhandari travelled in the same car to the president’s office, Shital Niwas, where they held bilateral talks.

People lined up at several places on the road from the airport to the president’s office to welcome Mukherjee by waving the flags of both countries. Mukherjee’s visit is expected to give a boost to high-level political contacts, and he will receive an honorary doctorate and be feted at two separate civic receptions.

The two presidents discussed a wide range of issues and expressed satisfaction at the current status of bilateral ties while underscoring the importance of regular interactions among the top political leadership, said Nepal’s foreign ministry spokesperson Bharat Raj Poudyal.

Mukherjee told Bhandari he is eager to host her in New Delhi soon. He also thanked Bhandari for promulgating Nepal’s new Constitution, the foreign ministry said.

Mukherjee is the first Indian President to visit Nepal after the new Constitution was promulgated last year. Relations between the two sides hit a low after key border trade points on the border were blockaded by groups in Nepal’s Madhes region opposed to the statute.

Nepali is hoping Prachanda’s recent visit to India and Mukherjee’s trip will help restore ties to an even keel. Tough the visit is being described as a “goodwill trip”, Mukherjee is an old Nepal hand and has long-standing contacts with all sections of the country’s political leadership.

The visit is also an opportunity for Nepali leaders, including those from agitating Madhes-based parties, to seek moral support for their demands, including the amendment of the new Constitution.

After the meeting with Bhandari, Mukherjee went to the Indian embassy to participate in a reception hosted by ambassador Ranjit Rae. Vice president Pun, senior political leaders, officials, chiefs of security agencies and members of the business community attended the reception.

The government announced a public holiday in honour of the visiting Indian President, who was scheduled to hold separate meetings with vice president Pun and Prachanda.

On Wednesday evening, Bhandari hosted a state banquet in honour of Mukherjee.

Tight security

Tight security was put in place across Kathmandu Valley, including Pokhara and Janakpur, which Mukherjee will visit to attend civic receptions. The Nepal Army and Indian security personnel are playing the lead role for the security arrangements and more than 5,000 personnel have been deployed in the capital.

The Nepal Army conducted aerial patrolling along the routes taken by Mukherjee’s motorcade. Authorities shut down the Tribhuvan airport for 50 minutes for the president’s special flight.

All keys roads in Kathmandu to be used by Mukherjee’s motorcade were closed to the public.