International

Modi seeks to better ties with Nepal

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Aug 24, 2017 :

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held one-to-one talks with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba at his residence ahead of the delegation level talks scheduled for Thursday morning at Hyderabad House.

Officials said that since 2006, when the late Girija Prasad Koirala visited India after the second people’s movement, this could be the first time an Indian prime minister met with his Nepali counterpart ahead of the scheduled delegation-level talks.

“This shows the importance given by India to our prime minister,” said Dinesh Bhattarai, foreign relations adviser to Deuba.

In 2006 too, then-Indian PM Manmohan Singh had received PM Koirala at the airport and held one-on-one meeting ahead of the scheduled meeting.

Wednesday’s talks between Deuba and Modi were focused on how to remove the bottlenecks in bilateral ties, said Nepal’s Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay.

“Happy to welcome Sher Bahadur Deubaji, PM of close and friendly neighbor Nepal, look forward to more extensive talks tomorrow,” Modi tweeted after the meeting.

The two prime ministers dwelt on bilateral relations and ways to improve political ties, said Ambassador Upadhyay. The meeting has surprised many as the two leaders were supposed to meet only on Thursday.

Officials said New Delhi had indicated during the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Kathmandu for the Bimstec ministerial meeting two weeks ago the importance that India attaches to the present coalition led by Deuba. Swaraj had hailed the alliance between Deuba and Dahal, expressing pleasure at its sustainability. Wednesday’s meeting between Deuba and Modi is continuation of that gesture, said officials.

Having held two rounds of local polls, the governing coalition is headed for conducting two crucial elections. Matters related to the upcoming polls were also learnt to have figured in the informal meeting between the two PMs.

The reasons behind India courting Deuba are geopolitics and the “India-friendly” image of the Congress-Maoist coalition, said a high-level Nepali official. “It seems Indian PM Modi wants to win the confidence of Deuba,” said a Nepali official who is part of the PM’s delegation.

Asked if Delhi sought Nepal’s support on the Doklam standoff between India and China, both Bhattarai and Upadhyay said the issue did not come up. “This has set the tone for tomorrow’s meeting, which we expect to go smoothly too,” said Upadhyay.

After the delegation level talks at Hyderabad House, seven memorandums of understanding are set to be signed. The deals will concern post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal, building a bridge over Mechi River, and preventing trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. India will provide Rs25 billion for reconstruction in the sectors of health, education, housing and cultural heritage.

The amount is part of the $1 billion aid that India announced after the earthquakes of 2015. An estimated cost of the bridge is IRs1.58 billion, which would be funded by the government of India with an ADB loan.

Published: 24-08-2017