Nepal PM coming on six-day visit to India

New Delhi/Kathmandu: Nepal's Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli will commence a six-day official visit to India from February 19, making it his first foreign visit since assuming office last October. “At the invitation of the prime minister of India, Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli will be visiting India from February 19 to 24,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said at a media briefing in New Delhi.

He said Oli would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and call on President Pranab Mukherjee on February 20.  “During the visit, the two sides are expected to hold wide-ranging discussions on issues of mutual concern as well as our bilateral cooperation in diverse areas, including developmental assistance, energy and connectivity,” Swarup said, adding that the visit was expected to further strengthen the age-old, close and friendly relations between the two neighbouring countries. A meeting of the Nepal cabinet in Kathmandu on Thursday night approved the dates for Oli's India visit and assigned the task of preparing the agenda and other necessary groundwork to the ministry of foreign affairs, Minister for Information and Communication Sher Dhan Rai, who is also the spokesperson of the Nepal government, said. It is a goodwill visit and maintaining good relations with India is the key, Bishnu Rimal, chief political advisor to Prime Minister Oli, told IANS.  He added that the visit would focus on strengthening bilateral ties. Oli will leave Kathmandu for New Delhi after participating in the celebrations of the National Democracy Day -- the day the Nepali people were freed from the clutches of the autocratic Rana regime 66 years ago. At a time when Nepal-India relations reached a new low due to protests in the southern plains of Nepal and India's displeasure over the new constitution promulgated in last September, the visit is being viewed with great interest. The agenda for Oli's visit was yet to be finalised. However, the Nepali prime minister himself was holding a series of meetings with former prime ministers, former foreign ministers, diplomats, members of the business community and leaders of various political parties. The very nature of the visit is expected to be political, seeking Indian acceptance on Nepal's newly-promulgated constitution, economic and technical cooperation, signing accord on utilisation of India's $1 billion aid and loan for various reconstruction projects in Nepal, implementation of past memoranda of understanding and finding a new framework of cooperation, said officials in Kathmandu. The two sides are readying for initialling an agreement for utilisation of the $1 billion Indian aid and loan pledged during the International Conference on Nepal's Reconstruction in June by India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.  Out of the pledged amount, $250 million comes as aid and remaining $750 million will be a soft loan. The two sides have yet to agree on the modalities of the soft loan, interest rate and project to be financed by Indian loan and aid. To lay ground for the visit, Nepal's Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel and Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi travelled to the Indian capital early this week, met Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and discussed a wide range of bilateral issues.