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Indian foreign secretary to visit Nepal

world Updated: Sep 10, 2009 15:08 IST

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Sep 10 (IANS)

New Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will be arriving in Nepal on Monday for consultations with the republic's leaders and senior officials.

This will be Rao's first visit to Nepal after assuming office last month. Her predecessor Shivshankar Menon visited Nepal in April when he was shown black flags by protesters asking India to return the Nepali territory ceded during an infamous treaty signed in the 19th century.

During her two-day visit; Rao is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala and other ministers and bureaucrats.

She is also expected to meet opposition leader and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, whose Maoist party has kept parliament under siege for over a month, casting grave doubts about Nepal's ability to promulgate a new constitution by May 2010.

In addition, Rao will pay a courtesy call on President Ram Baran Yadav.

During her brief stay, she will also visit the revered Pashupatinath temple in the capital that has been embroiled in a controversy since last month after the current government employed two Indian priests.

The new priests - Raghavendra Bhatt and Girish Bhatt from Karnataka - were assaulted and stripped by a mob, said to have been led by the Maoists, though the party denies any involvement.

India has strongly condemned the attack.

Though the protests at the shrine subsided after mounting condemnation, the trust that runs the shrine however had its office padlocked by the demonstrators who have vowed to keep up the stir till the Indian priests are removed.

Besides protests, the shrine has also been dragged into several legal disputes with an advocate this week challenging the appointment of the new priests in the Supreme Court.

Rao's visit comes ahead of the Nepali premier's expected maiden visit to China since he became prime minister in May.

The communist leader is likely to visit China next month when Beijing celebrates the 60th anniversary of the founding of its People's Republic.

Nepal's Foreign Minister Koirala is currently on a visit to China to lay the groundwork for the prime ministerial trip.

Nepal's predecessor Prachanda tried to break away from the tradition followed by Nepali premiers of making India their first destination abroad after assuming office.

Instead, he headed for Beijing first, ostensibly to attend the conclusion of the Summer Olympic Games 2008 hosted by China.

After his government collapsed in May, Prachanda claimed that the fall was engineered by India, who felt rebuffed by his China visit.