Nepal’s prime minister has begun a six-day state visit to India after months of bitter relations between the two neighbours.
Experts say the visit – the first foreign trip by Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli as prime minister – indicates that relations between the two nations are getting back on track.
Relations deteriorated after India asked Nepal to amend the constitution adopted last September to address the grievances of historically marginalised groups such as Madhesis.
The visit comes a week after a blockade of nearly five months on the India-Nepal border was lifted.
The landlocked Himalayan nation almost entirely depends on India for fuel and other essential items such as medicines.
Nepal accused India of interfering in its internal matters and imposing an unofficial blockade – a charge India has denied.
Anti-India and anti-Madhesi sentiment runs high in Nepal as India backed the demands of the Madhesi people, who say the new charter does not address their political and economic marginalisation.
The current coalition government, led by Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal, passed amendments that they said would address the demands of the Madhesi, who share close cultural and familial bonds with people across the border in India.
Oli, who earlier took strident positions against India, has said he would like to improve bilateral relations between the two neighbours.
Ranjit Rae, the Indian ambassador to Nepal, said the trip would help normalise relations.
The Nepal government has committed to creating a political mechanism to solve the political problems, and if it fails to do so in the next three months then we may expect more agitation in the southern Tarai plains.
Oli plans to visit Mumbai, India’s financial capital, to meet business leaders as his country is in desperate need of investment in infrastructure and the industrial sector.
However, Jha says the domestic situation is not conducive for investment in Nepal.
He said aid given by the Indian government earlier had yet to be utilised. There is already a $1bn line of credit announced by Modi in 2014 and another $1bn by India for quake reconstruction.
As Prime Minister KP Oli began his visit to India, Nepal warned that failure to implement past bilateral agreements and projects may lead to a “deficit of trust”, even as the country is set to sign a trade and transit treaty with China.
The main aim of the prime minister’s visit to India will be to strengthen friendly ties between the two countries.
The six-day visit is PM Oli’s first to a foreign country since taking over as prime minister some five months ago.
Madhesis, largely of Indian-origin, are agitating over the new Constitution demanding more representation. They are also protesting division of their ancestral homeland under the seven-province structure and have led an ongoing blockade of key border trade points with India.
List of Agreements and MOUs exchanged during the visit:
1. MoU on utilization of US$ 250 million Grant component of GOI’s Assistance package for Post-earthquake reconstruction assistance.
2. MoU on strengthening of road infrastructure in the Terai area of Nepal.
3. MoU between Nepal Academy of Music and Drama and Sangeet Natak Academy.
4. Letters of Exchange on Transit Routes: (i) Transit between Nepal and Bangladesh through Kakarbitta-Banglabandh corridor (ii) Operationalization of Vishakhapatnam Port.
5. Letters of Exchange on Rail Transport: (i) Rail transport to/from Vishakhapatnam (ii) Rail transit facility through Singhabad for Nepal’s Trade with and through Bangladesh.
6. Inauguration of Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line [Initial supply of 80 MW, to be augmented to 200 MW by October 2016 and 600 MW by December 2017].
7. Establishment of Eminent Persons Group.