New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid a surprise call on visiting Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, signifying the importance India attaches to ties with its close neighbour amid China's active wooing of Kathmandu. "Happy to welcome Rt Hon Sher Bahadur Deubaji, PM of close and friendly neighbour Nepal. Look forward to more extensive talks tomorrow," Modi tweeted. The unexpected meeting between the two Prime Ministers came a day ahead of formal talks between the two sides. Deuba, on a five-day state visit, will be given a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday. Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj received Deuba on his arrival - in another significant gesture of friendship. Deuba chose India for his first overseas visit after becoming Prime Minister in June. Nepal's Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhayay termed Modi's call a "warm-up" ahead of the official talks on Thursday.
Deuba's state visit comes days after Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang was in Nepal during which the two sides signed several major agreements to boost energy and economic ties. The Deuba visit also comes amid a dragging standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Doklam plateau that has escalated tensions between New Delhi and Beijing. Deuba and Sushma Swaraj met in Kathmandu earlier this month when the two sides are known to have discussed the Doklam issue. On Thursday, the two sides will hold delegation-level talks following which Modi and Deuba will remote launch from Hyderabad House the Katiya-Kushaha and Raxaul-Parwanipur cross-border transmission line for supply of 50 MW each. Some agreements are expected to be signed following the talks. Deuba is leading a 48-member delegation including Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, other ministers, MPs, Secretaries and other high ranking officials to India. Deuba also interacted with the Nepali diaspora at the Nepal Embassy and lauded their contribution towards nation building. He promised to provide a mechanised channel to transfer money to Nepal, the Himalayan Times reported. Deuba is expected to raise the issue of inundation in the Terai region and other issues during his talks with Modi. Modi will also host a banquet in honour of Deuba and his delegation in the evening. Deuba, also President of the Nepali Congress, will also visit Hyderabad, Tirupati and Bodh Gaya.