Sushma arrives in Nepal for BIMSTEC meeting
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has flown into Kathmandu to attend a meeting of the BIMSTEC grouping days ahead of Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s visit to India.world Updated: Aug 10, 2017 15:06 IST
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Nepal on Thursday for a two- day visit, during which she will participate in a BIMSTEC ministerial meeting at a time when India is pushing for a larger role for the regional grouping.
Her visit comes just ahead of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba’s trip to India beginning on August 23. It is also ahead of a visit by Chinese vice premier Wang Yang to Nepal against the backdrop of the India-China military standoff at Doklam near the Sikkim border.
Besides participating in the BIMSTEC meeting, Swaraj will meet President Bidhya Devi Bhandrai, Prime Minister Deuba, leader of opposition KP Oli, CPN-Maoist Center chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and leaders of Madhes-based parties.
Officials said Swaraj is expected to discuss bilateral relations and take stock of the latest political developments in Nepal to set the tone for Deuba’s visit.
Nepal is closely watching India’s efforts to promote BIMSTEC after a stalemate in the working of Saarc because of differences between New Delhi and Islamabad. India’s enthusiasm for BIMSETC was first manifested during the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa.
“So, India’s position on BIMSTEC is crucial,” said a Nepalese official who did not want to be identified.
The foreign ministers of Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan are participating in BIMSTEC ministerial meeting while Myanmar and Thailand have sent their deputy foreign ministers. Deuba will inaugurate the meeting on Thursday evening.
The eighteenth session of the BIMSTEC senior officials meeting began in Kathmandu on Thursday morning. Nepal is the current chair of the grouping and the members will discuss several issues, including fixing the dates for the fourth summit to be held in Nepal later this year.
At the top of the agenda for the meeting are finalising a free trade agreement among BIMSTEC members, including negotiations on market access for professionals and reducing the duty on trading goods. Issues such as trade in services and goods, investments and connectivity are also expected to figure in the meet.