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Nepal high on India's priority: Swaraj

  

LEKHANATH PANDEY

"Indian FM's visit will not only build trust between us‚ but also create an appropriate ambience for future collaboration." - Mahendra Bahadur Pandey‚ Foreign Minister

KATHMANDU: India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj arrived here today for a three-day official visit to co-chair, along with her Nepali counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, the third meeting of the Nepal-India Joint Commission on Saturday.

“I have come here to take part in the Joint Commission meeting, which is going to be held after 23 years,” she told mediapersons upon her arrival at the TIA. “My visit comes within two months of the formation of new government in India,” she said in Hindi. It shows Nepal is high on new government’s foreign policy, she added.

India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and other senior officials are accompanying Swaraj, who arrived on a special flight in the evening.

She was received by Officiating Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi and Chief of Protocol Kali Prasad Pokharel. Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae was there to receive her.

She had no official programme this evening, but met her “friend” Usha Raje Scindia, wife of RJP Chairman Pashupati SJB Rana, at Hotel Dwarika’s, where she is staying, said an Indian Embassy source.

Swaraj is the senior-most Indian leader to visit Nepal after the formation of new government in Kathmandu, as well as in New Delhi.

Talking to THT, Foreign Minister Pandey said Swaraj’s visit would lay the foundation and set agenda for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slated visit to Nepal on August 3-4.

“These visits will create an opportunity to take Nepal-India relations to a new height,” Pandey added. “It will not only build trust between us, but also create an appropriate ambiance for future collaboration on several issues, including utilisation of water resources, strengthening security and economic cooperation.”

The JC meeting is being held at Hotel Yak & Yeti.

The Cabinet meeting held this morning formalised the JC agenda prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the inputs of sectoral ministries.

Pandey reiterated these agenda would be discussed in five broader clusters: political, security and border issues; economic cooperation and infrastructure; trade and transit; power and water resources and culture, education and media.

According to her itinerary prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after the opening talk, Swaraj will leave the venue for calling on Nepali dignitaries, while over two dozen-delegates of the respective sides will negotiate on JC agenda.

On Saturday itself, Swaraj is scheduled to call on President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Chairman of Constituent Assembly Subas Chandra Nembang. She is also meeting CPN-UML leader Jhala Nath Khanal and UCPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Over the luncheon hosted by Indian Ambassador Rae at Embassy of India, she will meet senior leaders and officials, including former prime ministers, ministers, top bureaucrats and politicians across the parties.

After wrapping up the political parlays, she will return to Hotel Yak & Yeti at 5:30 pm and witness the conclusion of JC and signing of Joint Communiqué, MoUs and agreements, for which a preparatory meeting was held today.


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