Indian prez arrives in Nepal in sign of warming relations

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Nov 3, 2016-

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Kathmandu on a three-day state visit to Nepal on Wednesday, in a first by an Indian head of state in 18 years. 

Breaking the protocol, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari received Mukherjee at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal were also 

present. 

While Indian President wields no executive authority, his visit symbolises warming political ties through high-level exchanges in a bilateral relationship that has far too long been seen as a one-way traffic of Delhi-bound Nepali leaders. 

Mukherjee’s visit follows Prime Minister Dahal’s visit and several other ministerial trips to New Delhi in recent times. 

The last visit from India at the head of state level to Nepal was in 1998 when then Indian president KR Narayanan had visited Nepal. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nepal twice in 2014. The visit also comes amid improving ties between the two countries that had hit a low point following the promulgation of the constitution in Nepal and subsequent border blockade last year. 

India, which had said it had “noted” the constitution promulgation, has so far not welcomed the charter. 

During his meeting with Bhandari on Wednesday, Mukherjee congratulated the President of Nepal and the Nepali people for promulgating the new constitution.

Mukherjee is no stranger to Nepal. 

As former foreign minister in the Manmohan Singh government, he had extensive contacts with the Nepali leadership. He is on the record highlighting India’s role in Nepal’s peace process and mainstreaming of the Maoists.

During his three-day stay in Nepal, Mukherjee is set to hold high-level political dialogue with Prime Minister Dahal and leaders of major political parties, including Madhesi parties. 

Earlier on Wednesday, a contingent of the Nepal Army offered a guard of honour to Indian President Mukherjee at TIA upon his arrival. 

After a ceremonial function at the TIA, Mukherjee held talks with Bhandrai at Sheetal Niwas.

President Bhandari and President Mukherjee discussed a wide range of issues related to bilateral ties and expressed satisfaction over the present status of Nepal- India relations as they underscored regular interactions among the top political leadership, said Bharat Raj Poudyal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). “Mukherjee told Bhandari that he is eager to host her in New Delhi very soon.”

“The two presidents shared that Nepal-India relations are historical and stand on the solid foundation of common culture, civilisational bonds and close linkages at people’s level,” said MoFA in a press statement. “They also shared that exchange of high level visits, intensified in recent times, as well as increased engagements between the two countries at the highest level of leadership would contribute to nurture the friendly relations further,” the statement added. 

After the meeting, the Indian president graced a reception hosted by Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae at the Embassy of India in Kathmandu. 

Vice President Pun, leaders of major political parties, government officials, chiefs of security agencies and members of business community among others attended the reception. 

Mukherjee also held separate meetings with Vice President Pun and Prime Minister Dahal. Later in the evening, President Bhandari hosted a state banquet in honour of visiting Indian President Mukherjee. 

Published: 03-11-2016 07:27

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