India, Nepal set stage for KP Sharma Oli's New Delhi visit

Kathmandu, Jan 28: Notwithstanding Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's raising a question mark over his proposed visit to India, bilateral meetings are proceeding apace to set the stage for his proposed journey to New Delhi towards February-end, officials here indicated on Thursday.

Nepali Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel is visiting India during the first week of February to lay the groundwork for the number of agreements that are expected to be concluded during the prime ministerial visit.

Stage set for KP Oli's New Delhi visit?

Earlier, on February 1, Nepalese Army chief General Rajendra Chettri will visit India on the invitation of his Indian counterpart General Dalbir Singh. As per tradition, Gen Chhetri will be conferred the title of honorary chief of the Indian Army by President Pranab Mukherjee at a glittering ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

At present, Kathmandu was hosting a meeting of energy secretaries of the two neighbours to discuss the prospects of power exchange, master plan for installation of six cross-border energy corridors, import and export of electricity, and infrastructure enhancement, among others.

Indian Power Secretary Pradeep Kumar Pujari flew down to Kathmandu for the two-day meeting on January 27-28 with his Nepali counterpart Suman Sharma.

The meeting also discussed power projects undertaken by Indian private firms and decided to hold a meeting of the Pancheshwor Development Authority in Kathmandu in February ahead of Oli's proposed India visit.

The Pancheshwor project is a key power project jointly undertaken by the Indian and Nepali governments and has a 3,240 MW potential besides capacity to provide irrigation facilities to thousands of hectares of land in both countries.

Nepali officials said that other stalled meetings like secretary-level meeting of the Inter-governmental Committee (IGC) -- earlier scheduled in September; a joint secretary-level meeting of Joint Committee on Water Resources (JCWR); and a meeting of the Nepal-India Bilateral Consultative Group on security issues were in the pipeline.

The third meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission -- the highest bilateral mechanism between the two countries -- was also planned, officials here said.

Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj had suggested that the meeting be held ahead of Oli's visit when she met her Nepali counterpart Kamal Thapa recently in New Delhi.

Nepal Premier Oli has on Tuesday raised a question-mark over his visit to India next month, averring that it will not be appropriate for him to visit New Delhi as long as a blockade of the Nepal-India border continues.

A now more than five-month-old anti-Constitution protest by Madhesis in the southern Nepali Terai has led to a blockading of a major portion of the 1,868-km open border that the landlocked Himalayan nation has with its southern neighbour.

Most of the 41 transit and customs points along the southern portion of this open border have been besieged by the Madhesi protestors who are demanding, among others, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in Nepal as proposed in the new Constitution -- promulgated on September 20 last year; and representation in Parliament on the basis of population.

The Madhesis also seek proportional representation in government jobs and restoration of rights granted to them in the interim constitution of 2007 which the new charter has snatched away.

An India visit by Oli, the first foreign tour by him after assuming the office, is likely to take place in late February with preparations apace, according to reports in the Nepali media.


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