Nepal foreign minister to visit India from October 17

Kathmandu/New Delhi


Amid an unease creeping into Nepal-India ties following protests over the Himalayan nation's newly-promulgated constitution, its Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa would arrive in New Delhi on a three-day visit from October 17.

The India visit of Thapa, who is one of the new Nepali government's high-profile ministers and deputy prime minister, follows an invitation from his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.

Announcing his proposed visit at a press conference in Kathmandu on Thursday, Thapa said he was looking forward to his meeting with Sushma Swaraj and senior Indian government officials.

"I am looking forward to my meeting with the external affairs minister of India. I will discuss easing of normal supplies of fuel and other essential commodities from India (to Nepal)," said Thapa.

"I will also take up other bilateral matters. We think the current standoff on the India-Nepal border is a temporary one. The goodwill gestures from the Indian prime minister and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj towards Nepal during their visits to Kathmandu last year strengthened bilateral relations. In that spirit, we will hold talks with the Indian leadership," said Thapa.

The Nepali foreign minister also said that the new government in the Himalayan nation was equally concerned about addressing the grievances of Madhes-based political parties after the adoption of the new constitution.

The Madhes-based political parties have been protesting in the southern Nepali Terai plains along the Nepal-India border and blockading major entry points since last two months. Following protests at major customs points, thousands of Nepal-bound cargo-laden trucks are stranded on the Indian side of the border for more than three weeks.

The Nepal government had formed a panel headed by Thapa to take diplomatic initiatives with India to ensure normal supplies of fuel and other essential commodities.

In this context, Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and Thapa have already met Indian ambassador Ranjit Rae and sought Indian cooperation in this respect.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said Sushma Swaraj would receive Kamal Thapa while Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar would call on the visiting dignitary.

"The visit will provide an opportunity to discuss all issues of mutual concern as well as review and further strengthen India-Nepal relations," Swarup said at a media briefing.

To a question, Swarup stressed that the long queues of freight trucks waiting to cross over to Nepal from India were due to "disruption on the Nepalese side of the border".

He said whenever the disruptions, or the protests on the Nepali side, have eased, "we have tried to send supplies across the border".

Clarifying his point, he said that of the nine crossing points for commercial cargo on the India-Nepal border, five to six points were constantly in use.

Giving the latest position on truck movement, he said 733 commercial vehicles moved through seven crossing points in the past 24 hours.

Swarup said Indian trucks were waiting to enter Nepal, which would happen once the political situation on the Nepal side becomes more conducive.

"Thousands of trucks are still waiting to cross over, especially at Raxaul," he said.

He said nearly 2,500 trucks -- 1,500-2,000 at Raxaul and 750 at Sanauli -- were waiting to cross over.

"Today is the 21st day of border obstructions, and the 62nd day of unrest (in Nepal)," the ministry spokesman said, referring to the protest by people of Madhes region (plains in southern Nepal bordering India) against the new constitution, which they say does not give them adequate representation.

On Wednesday, Indian envoy to Nepal Ranjit Rae called on Thapa in Kathmandu to discuss ways to ease the supply of essential goods, including petroleum products, through the India-Nepal border entry points. - IANS