Nepal PM To Visit India On February 19

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New Delhi: After months of strain in bilateral ties, Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Oli would visit India on February 19, his first foreign trip after assuming office, during which the two sides would seek to rejuvenate age-old warmth between them.

Official sources said India hopes Oli’s engagement with its leadership will help take the ties, under strain due to the prolonged agitation by Indian-origin Madhesis for greater Constitutional protection, to “new heights”.

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told visiting Nepalese Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel that India was looking forward to Mr Oli’s visit as it could “further strengthen” the bilateral ties. Mr Poudel, sources said, voiced his country’s keenness to deepen security cooperation with India.

Mr Oli is scheduled to hold comprehensive talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 20 on key regional and bilateral issues, sources said.

Mr Poudel, who arrived on a two-day visit, briefed Ms Swaraj on Constitutional amendments effected by his country to assuage the concerns of the Madhesi community and said the Nepalese government was in “intense dialogue to resolve the remaining issues”, they said.

Amid continuing blockade by Madhesis of crucial supplies from India, including fuel and medicines, Nepal had last month amended its newly promulgated Constitution, accepting two key demands of the agitators – proportionate representation and seat allocation in the Parliament on the basis of population.

The Madhesis had been claiming the new Constitution eroded their political representation, divided their territory and carved out federal units which would deprive them of self-rule.

Reaffirming India’s consistent support for Nepal’s development and progress, Ms Swaraj hoped Kathmandu would amicably resolve the remaining issues with the Madhesi community through dialogue in a spirit of reconciliation.

Mr Poudel voiced his country’s keenness for enhanced security cooperation to assuage India’s concerns on circulation of fake currency notes, border security and terrorism, sources said.

The Nepalese minister sought increased investments by Indian businesses and expeditious implementation of India-assisted projects including hydro-power ventures and road construction in the Terai region of Nepal, inhabited mostly by Madhesis.

Sources said Mr Poudel conveyed to Ms Swaraj his country’s gratitude to India for assistance it extended within a few hours of the devastating earthquake last year. He said the government and people of Nepal were thankful for India’s support to the movement for democracy in the Himalayan nation, peace building efforts and Constitution making process.

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