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Modi will directly land in historical Janakpur, a sub-metropolitan city, where he will offer special prayers before flying to Muktinath, a famous mountainous pilgrimage site situated near the Nepal-Tibet border, and then head to Kathmandu to hold official meetings.
Modi’s visit shortly after the formation of the strong leftist government led by Prime Minister Oli following the victory of the Left Alliance in the provincial and parliamentary elections in Nepal is seen here as India’s endorsement of the Nepalese Constitution, promulgated two and a half years ago. Oli was among the key leaders who played a major role in drafting the 2015 constitution which failed to get India’s endorsement, resulting in an unofficial blockade against the Himalayan republic.
Modi’s third visit to Nepal as PM within a period of three years shows his commitment to the neighbourhood first policy and his tactfulness in handling foreign policy aimed at, in a way, healing the old wound. Kathmandu is decorated with welcome gates and the flags of both countries and the major roads have been black-topped to welcome the Indian leader.
Modi will be accorded a public reception in both Janakpur and Kathmandu as well as a guard of honour by the Nepal Army. He will call on President Bidya Devi Bhandari, vice-president Nanda Bahadur Pun, and hold bilateral talks with his Nepalese counterpart, Prime Minister Oli. He will also meet the top political leaders of Nepal, including CPN-Maoist Centre chairman Prachanda, Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba and leaders of two major Madhesi parties.
In Kathmandu, Modi and Oli will jointly lay down the foundation stone for the construction of the 900 MW Arun III project being developed by India through remote control on Saturday. Arun III is the largest hydropower project to be developed in Nepal and the government has recently granted a generation licence. The project, expected to be completed within five years, will prove to be a game changer for the Nepalese economy as it aims to provide billions of dollars to the Nepal government in the form of free electricity, royalty and tax, and India, too, would benefit through the supply of the electricity generated by the project.
“Modi’s visit will certainly consolidate Nepal-India bilateral relations,” said Sunil Manandhar, former science and technology minister and central secretariat member of the ruling CPN-Maoist Centre. “The visit is taking place at such an important moment, when a stable government is in place at the centre with the slogan of attaining economic prosperity and development,” Manandhar pointed out, adding the visit would be instrumental for Nepal’s desire to attain economic progress through cooperation and assistance from India.
“This visit signifies that India accords top priority to her relations with Nepal, and our government should pay attention for getting maximum benefit from the visit,” pointed out former foreign minister and Nepali Congress leader Prakash Sharan Mahat. Although the Oli-led CPN-UML had raised the issue of the blockade during the election campaign and nationalist slogans, after winning the election the Leftist party toned down its voice and adopted a positive attitude towards India, Mahat said. “Nepali Congress has been consistently following the policy of a ‘good neighbourhood’ and we believe in resolving any problem or issue between the two countries through diplomatic means,” he added.
The visit will certainly help clear doubts between the two friendly neighbours and help build trust as well, paving the way to move forward by forging an economic partnership.