Swaraj to visit this week with Modi’s message

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Jan 29, 2018-

With the left alliance set to form a new government in Kathmandu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sending his External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Kathmandu on a political mission, apparently to mend New Delhi’s frayed ties with CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, who is tipped to be the next PM.

Swaraj is arriving later this week, with a “message” of PM Modi for the Nepali political leadership, said top diplomatic sources.

The date of her visit has been proposed for February 1 and 2, subject to slight changes. Unless things change for her in the Indian capital, Swaraj will land in Kathmandu on Thursday, said an official privy to the developments.

An announcement of her visit will be made probably on Monday, said both Nepali and Indian officials. Swaraj will be the first high-level foreign visitor to Nepal after completion of the three tiers of election in Nepal.

In his second telephone conversation with Oli last week, the Indian PM had conveyed that he was preparing to send Swaraj to Kathmandu while expressing his readiness to work with the new government in Kathmandu to be led by Oli.

The timing of the visit suggests that India wants to improve its relations with Oli and his party UML. Relations between the two sides are often described as “patchy” and “acrimonious” where Oli has been a vocal critic of New Delhi’s policy on Nepal particularly after his government was toppled in July 2016.

Oli opposed the Indian blockade of Nepal in Septe-mber 2015 and won the recent elections on the plank of ‘nationalism’ with a promise to maintain “balanced” relations between immediate neighbours India and China.

Of late, said UML leader Pradeep Gyawali, “we have sensed that India wants to improve its ties with the UML” but things were yet to be clear.

“We need to wait for her message. We don’t know yet what kind of message she will be carrying with her, what priorities Indian wants to set regarding Nepal and what course the relations are desired to take,” said Gyawali, referring to the Indian external affairs minister.

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu has already communicated to President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister  Sher Bahadur Deuba, Oli, CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhesi leaders about her visit as she would have meetings with them during her two-day visit.

A senior Indian Embassy official said: “As the largest democracy and a next door neighbour, India should congratulate Nepali leaders who have recently concluded three tiers of election. This is a great accomplishment in consolidating democracy and other political achievements of the last decade.”

“The message is clear,” he said. “Nepal is moving on the democratic path and headed for political stability post elections, something India has always wanted to see. India wants to share the joy with the Nepali leaders.”

During a recent event in Kathmandu, Indian Ambas-sador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri made it clear that New Delhi was ready to work and cooperate with the new government in Nepal. “As a democratic country, India should recognise the achievements made by Nepal,” he said.

Published: 29-01-2018 07:52

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