Deals on energy, connectivity on the cards during Deuba’s India visitDeuba is visiting Delhi on April 1-3 in his first official foreign outing since assuming office.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba will pay an official visit to India from April 1-3, foreign ministries of both the countries announced on Monday.
This is the first official visit of Prime Minister Deuba after assuming office in July last year.
“At the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister of Nepal, accompanied by his spouse Arzu Deuba, will pay an official visit to India from April 1-3,” India’ Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The announcement comes a day after Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi concluded his three-day official visit to Nepal.
Along with the announcement of the visit, both sides have started groundwork to finalise a list of possible agenda items to be taken up with the Indian side.
“We are still working on the agenda,” said a joint secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
During the visit, according to officials, some announcements are likely on connectivity, energy trading and railway.
The two prime ministers will virtually inaugurate the Kurtha-Jayanagar cross-border railway, which has yet to come into operation due to some technical reasons, including a lack of law in Nepal. An ordinance for the railway’s operation, which expired multiple times, was reissued just a few days back.
“As per the preliminary itinerary made public by Nepal and India, both the prime ministers will virtually inaugurate the railway from the control room in New Delhi on April 2,” said Balaram Mishra, currently an advisor to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, who retired as the director general of the Department of Railway last year.
A formal function has been scheduled in Janakpur the same day.
A Memorandum of Understanding on technical cooperation for the railway service will also be signed.
India has spent around Rs10 billion for the reconstruction of the 35-kilometre Kurtha-Jayanagar railway while Nepal has spent around Rs1 billion to purchase two sets of trains.
“All of our concerns and issues will be taken up during the visit,” said Praksah Sharan Mahat, spokesperson for the Nepali Congress and former foreign minister. “From strengthening economic partnership to boundary issues and matters related to cooperation in energy, connectivity, trade and commerce will be discussed.”
This is Deuba’s first official foreign visit since he assumed office as prime minister in July last year.
The visit is taking place on the heels of the visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Nepal. Wang returned home on Sunday after concluding his three-day visit to Nepal.
“The entourage of Prime Minister Deuba will comprise Minister for Foreign Affairs Narayan Khadka, other senior ministers, secretaries and officials of the Government of Nepal,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “The visit will further strengthen the multifaceted, age-old, and cordial ties between Nepal and India.”
The Foreign Ministry said the Prime Minister Deuba will hold delegation-level talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House on April 2x
According to the ministry, the prime minister will also address a gathering of business leaders in New Delhi.
Another agreement that officials are expecting to be signed is on energy trading between Nepal and India. As Nepal is going to see surplus power during the wet season, it is looking for the market to sell electricity.
This time, both sides are working to reach an understanding for power trade where Nepal can sell its energy to India in a more systematic way, according to officials.
Some Indian experts who closely follow Nepal-India issues say Deuba’s visit is likely to be focused on building confidence at the political level.
In Nepal-India ties, some irritants continue to remain. The boundary issue is one among them.
The previous KP Sharma Oli government’s decision to publish a new map of Nepal showing the Kalapani region within the Nepali territory has not gone down well with Delhi.
“This visit by Deuba is taking place nearly four year after former prime minister KP Oli travelled to India. This is the first visit by a Nepali prime minister post-Covid and after the over boundary row,” said Nihar Nayak, a fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute of Defense and Security Analysis. “This visit will provide an opportunity to both sides to review and assess the progress made on bilateral fronts and discuss some avenues where both sides can work together.”
Relations between the two countries hit a historic low after Nepal published a new political map placing Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura within its borders in response to India's announcement of a road link via Lipulekh to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
“I think both sides will discuss issues related to boundary disputes behind closed doors, not publicly. There is a scope in working in areas like connectivity, energy cooperation, expansion of second petroleum pipeline, more access for Nepal to the Indian sea ports for export and import among others,” said Nayak.
Deuba is also scheduled to visit Varanasi before returning to Kathmandu on April 3.
According to India’s Ministry of External Affairs, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will call on Prime Minister Deuba during his stay in Delhi.
During his visit to Varanasi, Deuba will visit the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple and a Nepali temple also known as Shri Samrajyeshwar Pashupatinath Mahadev Mandir.
The Nepali temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is located at Lalita Ghat and was envisaged by Nepali King Rana Bahadur Shah who was exiled to the city from 1800 to 1804.
It was during his exile that he decided to build a replica of Kathmandu's famous Pashupatinath temple in the city. The construction of the temple was taken forward by his son Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah. The temple belongs to the Nepal government and is one of the most famous temples of the holy city, according to the Indian media.
“India and Nepal enjoy age-old and special ties of friendship and cooperation. In recent years, the partnership has witnessed significant growth in all areas of cooperation,” said India’s Ministry of External Affairs in the statement. “The upcoming visit will provide an opportunity to the two sides to review this wide ranging cooperative partnership and to progress it further for the benefit of the peoples of the two countries.”
Earlier in January also Deuba was scheduled to visit India to participate in the Gujarat business summit. The visit, however, was cancelled after the summit was postponed in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases in India.
Ranjit Rae, a former Indian ambassador to Nepal, said that Nepal and India should give final touches to the detailed project report of Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, which is part of the Mahakali Treaty signed between Nepal and India in 1996.
“I hope Prime Minister Deuba’s visit to India on April 1-3 will help push the bilateral economic agenda forward,” Rae tweeted . “Pancheshwar is a low hanging fruit; the joint DPR should be concluded within a specified timeframe.”