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Traditions Set Aside as India and Nepal Try to Turn Back the Clock

Interestingly, the Nepalese Prime Minister met the Congress party leadership, headed by party president Rahul Gandhi, even before his meeting with the Prime Minister last evening. Usually visiting dignitaries meet with the opposition leaders only after engaging with the PM.

Maha Siddiqui | CNN-News18

Updated:April 7, 2018, 12:24 PM IST
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Traditions Set Aside as India and Nepal Try to Turn Back the Clock
Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli was accorded a ceremonial welcome in New Delhi on Saturday (Photo credit: Niraj Tiwari/News18)
New Delhi: Despite what has been a difficult period in the relationship between India and its Himalayan neighbour Nepal, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has stuck to precedence and chosen India for his first state visit after election.

With Oli, who had accused India of orchestrating his ouster last time, back in the saddle, India got into action to get things back on track. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had travelled to Kathmandu in February, just ahead of the formation of the Left government in Nepal, in a bid to reset ties. The effort continues as Oli visits India.

The Nepalese Prime Minister had a meeting with Prime Minister Modi at his official residence 7, Lok Kalyan Marg last evening. This meeting was not held in Hyderabad House nor followed by delegation level talks as is the norm which has been scheduled separately for today.

According to sources, this was to allow the two leaders to ‘spend time together’ without it spilling over into delegation level talks. The meeting that lasted just a little less than an hour was cordial, according to sources, and allowed the two sides to look at all issues pertaining to the bilateral ties.

India’s concerns stem from the apprehension that the Left government could tilt more towards China. This also because after the 2015 Madhesi blockade, that Nepal blamed India for, Kathmandu turned to China for its oil supply.

China tried further spreading its influence in Nepal, and in September last year, the two nations agreed to start technical work to build a cross-border railway link via Tibet. In fact, Nepal also committed itself to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, though no project has taken off on ground just yet, New Delhi is wary of Nepal getting caught in a China debt-trap.

Meanwhile, in an effort to infuse goodwill again and send a message across to Kathmandu that India shares a special relationship with Nepal, the two Prime Ministers will be jointly inaugurating some projects via video-conferencing.

The first will be a ground-breaking ceremony for the 69 km long pipeline between Motihari and Amlekhganj. The pipeline will deliver 2 million tonnes of petroleum products per year with pumping facilities in Motihari in Bihar. The other one will be the inauguration of an integrated checkpost at Raxual and Birgunj.

However, interestingly the Nepalese Prime Minister met the Congress party leadership headed by party president, Rahul Gandhi even before his meeting with the Prime Minister last evening.

Usually visiting dignitaries meet with the opposition leaders only after engaging with the Prime Minister. It is also noteworthy that not all visiting dignitaries are meeting with opposition leaders over the past four years.

The Ministry of External Affairs seems to have done away with the norm in the present government with sources citing no Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha as a reason for the discontinuation of the practice.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who chose to meet the then Congress President Sonia Gandhi in 2014, was believed to have requested for a meeting that was facilitated by the Russian embassy itself.

Hence, it becomes significant that KP Sharma Oli not just met Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma but did so ahead of his scheduled interaction at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg.

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