Amid the India-China military standoff, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday called on Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and discussed a wide range of bilateral issues in what is seen as New Delhi’s diplomatic outreach to Nepal, which shares a long border with Tibet.
Sushma Swaraj arrived in Kathmandu to participate in the 18th BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting, which she will be addressing on Friday.
According to Dinesh Bhattarai, Foreign Relations Adviser to Deuba, the meeting especially focused on Deuba’s upcoming state visit to India from August 23.
Sushma Swaraj, according to Bhattarai, told Deuba that India is all set to welcome Deuba in New Delhi. This will be his maiden foreign visit since taking over in June as part of a power-sharing agreement.
Bhattarai said both sides discussed all bilateral issues in the meeting – ranging from the latest political developments in Nepal to Indian development assistance in Nepal and the status of India-funded projects in Nepal.
There was no communication whether Sushma Swaraj raised the Doklam issue with Deuba.
However, the two held a one-and-one meeting for 15 minutes – during which high-stakes diplomatic issues are likely to have figured, said officials.
The talks between the two sides comes as Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang is set to visit Kathmandu next week, – an event that would be closely watched by India. Nepal and China in May signed a framework agreement on Beijing’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, and the two sides are also in talks to build a cross-border rail link.
“The meeting was mainly focused on PM Deuba’s upcoming India visit and how both sides can optimize the opportunity,” Bhattarai said.
After the over five-month-long economic blockade on the Nepal-India border in 2015, ties between the two neighbours had reached a low ebb. There is now understanding that both sides will take ties to a new height.
The visit of Deuba will further consolidate the bilateral ties where both sides will discuss the pending Indian projects in Nepal, including some energy, infrastructure and cross-border connectivity.
After meeting with Deuba, Sushma Swaraj also called on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari at the President’s Office where the two sides discussed strengthening bilateral ties.
This is Sushma Swaraj’s sixth visit to Nepal and the first high level visit since the new government under Deuba assumed office in Nepal in June 2017, said an Indian Embassy statement.
According to the statement, the two sides discussed an expanded bilateral agenda reflecting the updated national priorities of Nepal. Progress in the reconstruction activities and cooperation in hydro power sector also came up for discussion. Both sides agreed that there are immense possibilities for cooperation in infrastructure, connectivity and energy.
In the evening, Sushma Swaraj attended the inaugural session of 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting.