Nepal president’s India visit axed, Ujjain deaths cited

Kathmandu, May 6 (IANS) Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s visit to India has been cancelled, with the president telling an Indian visitor on Friday that it was because of the Ujjain Kumbh tragedy.

Bhandari told Indian journalist Deepak Kumar during an hour-long meeting here that she had decided not to go to India because of the death of seven pilgrims at Ujjain on Thursday after a huge storm.

“I was very eager to meet (Indian President) Pranab Mukherjee but we will do it on another occasion,” Deepak Kumar, who spoke to IANS, quoted the Nepalese president as saying.

“I was very sad to hear about the deaths in Ujjain,” she added.

Officials here did not disclose the reason for the visit’s abrupt cancellation although the foreign ministry has informed Nepal’s ambassador to India about the development.

But diplomatic sources told IANS that Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s approach towards India was responsible for the cancellation of the visit which was set to begin on May 9.

Bhesh Raj Adhikari, chief personal assistant to Bhandari, told IANS that the Cabinet, even after two meetings on Thursday and Friday, had held back approval for the visit, delegation and agenda.

It was to be President Bhandari’s first official visit to India.

Deepak Kumar presented to Bhandari a copy of his book, “Nepal Elections: Facts and Figures”, detailing constituency-wise information about all the elections that have taken place in the country.

Bhandari also said on the occasion that India and Nepal should set aside their differences and “take up issues on which we agree”.

Nepal, the president added, was determined to improve relations with India at all costs.

Bhandari was to attend a function in New Delhi on May 9 and the following day she was to meet Mukherjee and other Indian political leaders.

On May 11, she was to leave for Simhastha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. She was scheduled to speak in Ujjain on women’s empowerment.

During an interaction with some reporters at her office on Wednesday, Bhandari had said her trip to New Delhi was a goodwill visit.

“I will invite the Indian president to visit Nepal. The purpose of my visit is to strengthen the good ties between Nepal and India,” she said.

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