The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Visit of great value: Nepal

•First high-level visit since fall of Maoist govt


India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will on Friday start his three-day visit to Nepal. The visit is being seen here as New Delhi’s effort to address Nepal’s call for reciprocity in high-level bilateral visits.

The visit, which begins on Jan. 15, will be his first to Nepal since he assumed office in May. Accompanying him will be senior South Block officials, including Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Joint Secretary Satish Mehta.

“This is one of those rare visits where the Indian foreign minister and secretary are travelling together,” said a senior foreign ministry official. “That gives the visit strong political symbolism. India’s concerns in Nepal are widespread and deep.”

The visit will deal with a range of bilateral issues but is aimed primarily at giving Nepal-India ties a further boost with a message that Nepal remains a very important partner for India, the official said.

The visit will provide the Indian political leadership the opportunity to take first-hand stock of the state of the peace process in Nepal, he said.

To many, the visit will hold special significance to see how New Delhi-Maoist relation shape up after the visit. It is the first high-level visit by seniormost Indian diplomats since the fall of the Maoist government in May. “Especially interesting will be to see how Indian officials treat the Maoists,” said Hari Rokka, a Constituent Assembly member and analyst with close ties with the UCPN (Maoist). “It will be closely followed how the Indian leadership approaches the border issue raised by the opposition and the current state of political stalemate.”

Krishna will also meet Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal at a time when the party is in the midst of its campaign to safeguard “national sovereignty”.

Krishna is likely to hold talks with his counterpart Sujata Koirala on close to a dozen issues. “This is a follow-up visit to the prime minister’s visit to Delhi in August,” said an official. “The two will assess the progress made.”

Issues of Indian compensation for Gandak flood victims and extension of two new cross-border rail links will be taken up.

Delay in construction of the Indian-assisted Naumure hydro project (240mw), early implementation of the Bagmati Civilisation Project and Indian assurance for import of LPG from Haldiya port will be taken up. Koirala will also discuss effective management of Nepal-India border. Nepal will ask for more scholarships for Nepali students in India, construction of Mahendranagar-Tanakpur link road and assistance for two suspension bridges in the Far-Western region.

“Nepal will also request Indian support in persuading Bhutan to repatriate refugees,” said the official.

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