Nepalese deputy PM in India, to meet Sushma, Jaishankar

ArrayNew Delhi/Kathmandu, Oct 17 (IANS) New Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa on Saturday arrived in New Delhi on a three-day visit that is expected to see both sides strive to ease the tension that has crept into bilateral ties.

Thapa, who will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar on Sunday, is on his first overseas visit after taking over as deputy prime minister and foreign minister a week ago.

His visit is expected to provide an opportunity to both sides to “discuss all issues of mutual concern as well as review and further strengthen India-Nepal relations”, India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said at a briefing earlier this week.

Ties have undergone strain in recent weeks over India expressing concern at the new Nepalese constitution failing to give adequate representation to the Madhes, Tharu and other plainspeople of Nepal, who live along the border with India. it has also denied any kind of “informal blockade” of freight trucks on the border waiting to enter Nepal, maintaining the trucks are unable to enter due to the “disruption on the Nepalese side of the border”.

Speaking to journalists at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu before his departure, Thapa expressed optimism that his talks in New Delhi would help in resolving the blockade of essential commodities at the India-Nepal border.

He said he would hold talks with his Indian counterpart and other top Indian officials on ending the impasse at the border points. “The visit will be entirely centered on ending the problem that has emerged between the two countries,” he added.

“I am confident the visit will be fruitful as I am visiting with good will, love and wishes of 30 million Nepali people,” Thapa said, adding that he had already held discussions on the visit with Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and High Level Political Coordination Committee chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda.

Thapa said discussions will also be held on the invitation extended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Prime Minister Oli for an official visit.

Thapa is leading a nine-member delegation to India, including Commerce and Supply Secretary Aindra Prasad Upadhyay, Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, Nepali Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay and Joint Secretary, Finance Laxman Aryal among others.

His visit also comes as Chinese official media has dubbed Oli “pro-China” and that he is “expected to keep closer ties” with Beijing despite Modi’s efforts to boost ties with the Himalayan country.

“(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi has made efforts to develop friendly relations with neighbouring countries since he came to office (in May last year). This has contributed to the change of diplomatic landscape of South Asian nations,” said an article in the state-run Global Times.

“Instead of keeping a distance from India, they (South Asian nations) are gradually moving to strike a balance between India and China. This is the broad regional environment Nepal is facing. Despite this, Kathmandu under Oli’s governance is expected to keep closer ties with Beijing,” added the article titled ‘Nepal warms toward China as new Beijing-friendly coalition takes power’.

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