Indian foreign secretary visiting Nepal on MondayVinay Mohan Kwatra, India’s former envoy to Nepal, is coming on the heels of twin visits by senior US officials.
After two back-to-back visits from the United States in a short span of time, it now appears to be New Delhi’s turn to engage with the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government. Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra is arriving in Kathmandu on Monday on a three-day official visit at the invitation of Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal.
Neither Kathmandu nor New Delhi, however, has made a formal announcement of the visit. Kwatra, who earlier served as Indian ambassador to Nepal from May 2020 to April last year, is an old Nepal hand in India’s South Block, the seat of the Indian foreign ministry.
“We have several mechanisms at different levels including at the foreign secretary level,” Foreign Minister Bimala Rai Paudyal told the Post. “The Indian foreign secretary will meet his counterpart where the two sides will discuss various issues and review the status of bilateral initiatives.”
Soon after landing in Kathmandu, Kwatra will hold a foreign secretary-level meeting with Paudyal, followed by a meeting with Foreign Minister Paudyal.
The two foreign secretaries will review progress made in Indian-funded projects in Nepal and discuss various bilateral issues, according to Nepali officials.
This is a return visit of Kwatra to Kathmandu after foreign secretary Paudyal’s New Delhi visit in September last year, a senior Nepal government official said.
Paudyal and Kwatra will review progress on various initiatives and announcements made during the high-level visits of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to each other’s countries last year, the official said.
Deuba as prime minister had visited India last April while Modi came to Nepal the following May.
On behalf of the Indian prime minister, Kwatra will also extend an invitation to Prime Minister Dahal to visit India at a convenient date, a Nepali diplomat added.
Prime Minister Dahal had told a group of journalists on January 15 that his first foreign visit would be to India and that the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi was coordinating with relevant Indian offices for the same.
But whether Dahal will make New Delhi his first port of call is still uncertain as he could first visit Qatar to participate in the fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries scheduled on March 5-9.
Both the prime minister and the foreign minister are scheduled to participate in the UN conference where Nepal is set to be the chair of the least-developed nations.
“The prime minister will attend the conference for two days, but I will be there for its entire length,” said Foreign Minister Paudyal.
The date of the prime minister’s Delhi visit will be decided after Kwatra’s visit, according to officials.
In 2008, after being elected prime minister for the first time, Dahal broke with the tradition of Nepali prime ministers visiting New Delhi first, and instead jetted off to Beijing to take part in the Summer Olympics inauguration ceremony that year.
But upon his return from Beijing, Dahal tried to control the perceived damage done in Nepal-India relations and said the Beijing visit was not official and that his first ‘official visit’ would still be to New Delhi.
But during his second stint as prime minister, Dahal started his foreign visit from India in September 2016.
Then, in July last year, Dahal (not the prime minister at the time) visited the southern neighbour at the invitation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president JP Nadda. Dahal had at the time also met External Affairs Minister of India S Jaishankar, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval besides the BJP president.
In his interview with an Indian news channel on December 28, Dahal confirmed that he had received a phone call from Kwatra and was invited to visit India at a convenient date. “I think my first foreign visit will be from India,” Dahal had said in an interview with ABP News.
It was on December 30 that Indian ambassador Naveen Srivastava, while handing over a congratulatory message from Indian Prime Minister Modi to Dahal, had extended him an invitation to visit India, according to sources.
As per the initial itinerary, Kwatra will arrive on Monday and will hold bilateral talks with his counterpart Paudyal and call on President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Dahal, Foreign Minister Paudyal, and former prime ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba and KP Sharma Oli, among others.
Ahead of Dahal’s India visit, Kathmandu and New Delhi are gearing up to conclude some meetings of bilateral mechanisms at different levels.