NEW DELHI: After months of tumultuous ties with the Himalayan nation, President Pranab Mukherjee will be traveling to Nepal next week. He will be the first Indian head of state to visit the country in the last 18 years.
During his visit beginning November 2, President Mukherjee will be meeting Madhesi leaders in the country.
“During the visit, the President will hold talks with the President, Prime Minister and other leaders of Nepal on a wide array of issues of mutual interest,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said on Friday. “The state visit reflects the priority that government of India attaches to further strengthen its age-old unique partnership with Nepal and our shared historical and cultural linkages and wide-ranging people to people contacts.”
New Delhi has faced loss of acceptability in the landlocked country in the aftermath of the objections it raised on Nepal’s constitution in 2015 and the ensuing economic blockade. At the heart of the problem have been the rights of Madhesis community of Indian origin living in Nepal.
The Indian establishment was miffed as the former Nepalese government led by KP Oli turned a deaf ear to its concerns regarding Madhesis and whipped up anti-India sentiment in the country. Oli had publicly told Indian diplomats not to ‘interfere in Nepal’s internal politics’ and had accused India for trying to destabilise his government. Oli also took the opportunity provided by the economic blockade to ink a pact with Beijing to allow transit of its goods, breaking India’s monopoly on its third party trade.
May 2016 has been a watershed month in the relations of the two countries with Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari cancelling her visit to India. Prime Minister Modi also dropped the idea of attending the ‘Buddh Purnima’ in Lumbini on May 21. Kathmandu recalled its ambassador in New Delhi marking the final push in the downhill movement of the bilateral relations.
The ties are on the road to revival since former Communist-rebel-turned- politician Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ became Prime Minister in August.