Visiting Nepal within two months of being Foreign Minister reflects importance of Nepal for India: Swaraj

Kathmandu, July 25: Sushma Swaraj, who is on a three-day official visit to Nepal, said that visiting the country just after two months of being the external affairs minister reflects how important Nepal is for India.

“I am coming to the country only two months after becoming the External Affairs Minister and this shows how important Nepal is for us. I believe my visit will contribute to strengthening of ties of India and Nepal,” said Swaraj.

“Also, the fact that this meeting is being held after 23 yrs, shows how high up Nepal is on the new government’s priority list,” she added.

Swaraj arrived in Nepal this afternoon and is visiting the country on the invitation of Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey.

She will be heading the Indian side in the Nepal-India Joint Commission Meeting on Saturday.

Twenty-seven officers each from Nepal and India would participate in the commission’s meeting.

The Nepali delegation in the meeting will comprise of Officiating Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Shanker Das Bairagi and the high officials at the Ministries of Energy; Commerce and Supplies; Agriculture; Defence; Health and Population; Irrigation; Finance; Home Affairs; Physical Infrastructure and Transport; Education; Urban Development; Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation; Industry; Forests and Soil Conservation; Youth and Sports and Information and Communications, and the Charge d’ Affaires at the Nepalese Embassy in New Delhi, India.

The Indian delegation will comprise of Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, Development Partnership Administration Secretary Sujata Mehta, senior officials of the Indian Cultural Relations Council and the Ministries of Culture; Energy; Roads and Highways; Commerce and Industry; Water Resources; Railways; and Human Resources Development; and the Indian Ambassador to Nepal.

The commission, formed at the foreign ministers’ level 27 years back, is the highest mechanism overseeing bilateral relations.

Its objective is to enhance cooperation in all areas of mutual interest while building on the cooperative relations between Nepal and India.

The meeting is being held after 23 years, and will discuss the whole gamut of bilateral ties, reports nepalnews.com

The officials will hold a meeting to discuss matters pertaining to their respective sectors before the joint commission meeting. This meeting will chart out the commission meeting’s agenda and recommend the agreed upon topics.

Twenty-five bilateral mechanisms have been established at different levels, including in energy, commerce and security. Although it was stated that the commission would meet alternatively in Nepal and India every year, it had not become possible for 22 years due to various reasons.

The meeting will hold intensive discussions in five different clusters, such as economic cooperation, trade and transit, water resources, border management and security.

It will also review the implementation and progress made on the decisions of the second meeting of the joint commission, Deepak Dhital, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted, as saying.

Nepal is expected to prioritize issues of development of the physical infrastructures with Indian investment, production and development of hydropower, construction of the Midhills Highway, construction of a bridge over the Mahakali River, development of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, electricity purchase agreement, resolution of the inundation problem, development of agriculture science and technology, increase in agriculture production and setting up of agro processing centre among other projects.

It will also look for ways of removing the trade imbalance, controlling unauthorized trade and increasing loan assistance.

India has shown its interest in the construction of the Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track, the Postal Highway, a bridge at Jhulaghat of Baitadi and the Mahakali River Bridge, a cricket academy and the Project Development Agreement (PDA) of the Upper Karnali, Upper Marsyangdi and Arun-III hydroelectricity projects. The commission will also discuss issues like implementing development construction projects under the public-private partnership and increasing the Indian investment.

This visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister is expected to pave the way for the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal.

During her visit, Swaraj will separately meet with Nepal’s President Dr Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Constituent Assembly Chairman Subas Nembang, UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and leaders of the major political parties.

Before Swaraj, former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid visited Nepal. (ANI)