Dates for Nepal PM’s India visit being fixed

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) The dates for Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s forthcoming visit to India are being fixed, an official said on Thursday.

“As you know, when the prime minister (Narendra Modi) congratulated K.P. Sharma Oli in October 2015 on his becoming the prime minister of Nepal, he also extended an invitation to him to visit India,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said at a media briefing here.
“Now we have been told that the prime minister of Nepal will be visiting India. The dates for the visit will be fixed through diplomatic channels,” he said.
His remarks came after Oli said on Tuesday in Kathmandu that it would not be appropriate for him to visit New Delhi as long as a blockade of the Nepal-India border continued.
“As far as that comment is concerned, we have not come to know about it through official channels,” Swarup said.
“Our one and only desire is to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Nepal and for Nepal to resolve the internal political differences at the earliest by engaging in a dialogue in a genuine spirit of flexibility and compromise.”
A now more than five-month-old anti-constitutional protest by Madhesis in the southern Nepali Terai has led to a blockading of a major portion of the 1,868-km open border that the landlocked Himalayan nation has with its southern neighbour.
Most of the 41 transit and customs points along the southern portion of this open border have been besieged by the Madhesi protestors who are demanding, among others, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in Nepal as proposed in the new Constitution — promulgated on September 20 last year — and representation in parliament on the basis of population.
Significantly, the Nepal Terai has almost 51 percent of the country’s population and yet gets only one-third of seats in Parliament.
The Madhesis also seek proportional representation in government jobs and restoration of rights granted to them in the interim constitution of 2007 which the new charter has snatched away.
An India visit by Oli, the first foreign tour by him after assuming the office, is likely to take place in late February with preparations apace, according to reports in the Nepali media.
But the leftist premier, who has assumed an ultra-nationalist posture and shown unwillingness to meet the grievances of the Madhesi protestors, has often declared his resolve not to visit New Delhi till the agitation in the Terai was over.
In an interaction with senior editors at his residence in Kathmandu on Tuesday, Oli expressed the hope that the blockade at key Nepal-India entry points will be lifted within a couple of days.
Nepal is falling severely short of fuel, essential supplies, medicines and other stuff due to the prolonged blockading of the border customs points by Madhesi protestors.
India has been urging Kathmandu to reach out to the discontented sections in the Nepal Terai as soon as possible.
Unnerved by the prolonged Madhesi agitation, the ruling major-Left coalition as also the main opposition Nepali Congress last week approved two amendments to the four-month-old Constitution partly meeting the demands of the agitating Madhesis.
Also last week, the government launched an ambitious NRs.5 billion Border Area Development Programme (BADP) in the southeastern Nepali Mahottari district.
The five-year development programme shall initially target the development of proposed province number 2 — the heartland of the ongoing Madhesi agitation — and will seek to create physical and social infrastructures in the region that borders southern neighbour India.
The region chosen for the programme has villages and towns bordering India. It has been lagging behind in life expectancy, literacy and per capita income values as compared to other regions of the country.
Oli told the senior editors that his government had fulfilled demands of the agitating parties. “There is no question why the embargo will not be lifted,” he said.
However, the Madhesi Morcha spearheading the agitation on Monday rejected the amendments to the statute and announced a fresh agitation programme besides calling for a broader alliance among all forces in the Terai-Madhes region.
The agitating four-party alliance on Monday resolved that the stir would continue until their demands were met by the ruling elite in Kathmandu.
The Madhesi Morcha later asserted that their struggle would continue till all their demands were met in a package. They also demanded the setting up of a high-level judicial panel to probe the numerous instances of killings by the state in the Terai.