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Sushma Swaraj on ‘political mission’ to Nepal, reaches out to KP Sharma Oli

Sushma Swaraj’s first engagement with KP Sharma Oli focused on “wide ranging discussions on ways to take the special relations between India and Nepal forward”.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2018 22:47 IST
Anil Giri
Anil Giri
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
India-Nepal relations,Sushma Swaraj,KP Sharma Oli
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj with CPN-UML leader KP Sharma Oli, who is expected to be Nepal’s next prime minister, in Kathmandu on February 1, 2018.(HT Photo)

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday held back-to-back meetings with CPN-UML chairman KP Sharma Oli and the top leadership of the Communist party as part of efforts to engage with the Leftist alliance that is set to form Nepal’s next government.

Swaraj and Oli held a one-on-one meeting that lasted more than an hour shortly after she flew into Kathmandu for a two-day visit. The two leaders then held delegation-level talks at which senior CPN-UML leaders and top Indian officials, including the envoy to Nepal, Manjeev Singh Puri, were present.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted that Swaraj’s first engagement with Oli focused on “wide ranging discussions on ways to take the special relations between India and Nepal forward”. Oli’s spokesman Chetan Adhikari did not provide any details.

Swaraj is the first senior Indian leader to visit Nepal after an alliance of the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Center, which has strong connections to China, swept elections to the federal Parliament. Nepal successfully conducted local, provincial and parliamentary polls as part of efforts to implement the new Constitution adopted in 2015.

The focus of her visit was to mend fences with Oli, who tilted towards China during his last tenure as premier and even blamed India for his ouster from the post in 2016.

Oli and Swaraj, sources said, had agreed to forget “past bitterness” linked to the blockade of the India-Nepal border in 2015 during protests against the new Constitution. They also decided to make a fresh start to take bilateral ties forward, the sources added.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj talks to journalists after arriving at Tribhuwan International Airport, Kathmandu, Nepal, on February 1, 2018. (AP)

Oli hosted a dinner in honour of Swaraj and the Indian delegation. Following the dinner, Swaraj held talks with Madhes-based leaders and discussed a wide range of issues, including amending the Constitution to benefit the people of Madhes region.

Ahead of his meeting with Swaraj, Oli said during a joint meeting of the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Center that “he had invited Sushma to Kathmandu”. The two parties are currently preparing for a formal merger.

During two recent telephone conversations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Oli had advised the Indian leader to send Swaraj to Kathmandu so that both sides could discuss matters of mutual interest.

“She is our guest, and the visit aims to improve bilateral ties,” said top CPN-UML leader Bamdev Gautam.

Before wrapping up her visit, Swaraj will call on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-Maoist Center chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”.

First Published: Feb 01, 2018 22:47 IST