Mending fractured ties topmost priority of Nepal PM’s India visit

  • Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Feb 17, 2016 18:59 IST
This will be the first visit to India by a Nepali premier since a trip by former Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai in October 2011. (HT File Photo)

Repairing ties that have soured since Nepal adopted a new constitution last year will top Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s agenda during a six-day official visit to India beginning on Friday.

Bilateral relations have gone through a rough patch since September, when New Delhi asked Kathmandu to address the concerns of Madhesis, the residents of the Terai region bordering India, regarding the new statute.

“Some misunderstandings have emerged in Indo-Nepal relations. My visit will focus on removing them completely and build afresh based on mutual benefit and respect,” Oli told parliament on Tuesday.

“This visit is to strengthen Indo-Nepal friendship. Not to look back and blame, but to develop trust and understanding.”

The statement is indicative of Kathmandu’s efforts to allay New Delhi’s misgivings of the past few months.

Earlier, Oli and several senior cabinet members had accused India of imposing an unofficial blockade on Nepal to support the Madhesis, who have close cultural and family ties across the border.

The blockade imposed by Madhesi parties unhappy with the constitution had affected the supply of essential goods for months. New Delhi denied any involvement.

The standoff led experts to describe it as the worst phase in bilateral ties, less than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two hugely successful visits.

Relations have thawed in the past few weeks since Nepal amended the statute to address some demands of the Madhesis, and the protesting United Democratic Madhesi Front ended its 135-day border blockade.

The fresh demarcation of federal units as demanded by the UDMF remains unresolved but there is an unofficial agreement on creating a political mechanism to sort out this issue. India welcomed the developments, which in turn led to Oli’s visit.

Oli will be accompanied by a 46-member delegation that will include the foreign minister, finance minister, home minister and leaders of major parties.

This will be the first visit to India by a Nepali premier since a trip by former Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai in October 2011.

Oli has been seeking advice from former premiers, foreign ministers, diplomats, senior politicians and businessmen to ensure his visit goes off without a glitch.

New Delhi too is giving importance to the visit. Unlike his predecessors, Oli will stay at the Rashtrapati Bhawan and not at a five-star hotel.

Nepal expects Indian aid to build two hydropower projects with a capacity of 750MW, a road in Terai and a hospital in Kathmandu. There will also be discussions on how to spend the $1 billion that India pledged for reconstruction work related to last year’s earthquakes.

Oli will visit Bhuj in Gujarat to see earthquake reconstruction work there and address a business conclave in Mumbai to seek investments.

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