South Asia

Nepal's Prime Minister Likely to Visit India in Mid April

Once the prime minister gets a vote of confidence in the House, expands the Cabinet and new governments are formed in the provinces, the prime minister will have the time for the visit, an aide to Dahal said.

Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal is likely to embark on a state visit to India before mid-April. However no date has been finalised between the two sides, sources in Kathmandu and New Delhi told the Post.

Earlier, the prime minister had announced that his first foreign visit would be to India. Once the prime minister gets a vote of confidence in the House, expands the Cabinet and new governments are formed in the provinces, the prime minister will have the time for the visit, an aide to Dahal said. These processes could take up to four weeks.

Then the prime minister will visit India, the aide said. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has started groundwork for the visit. Meetings are being held with the line ministries to prepare the agenda, said an official at the ministry.

Diplomatic sources said the proposed date of the visit is April 13–15 but another government official said there had been no discussion with the Indian authorities on the visit’s dates and itinerary.

“Following indications from Delhi that it will invite the prime minister soon, we have started necessary preparations for the visit,” a senior foreign ministry official said. “The visit is expected to take place sometime between the second and third weeks of April.”

“The visit will happen after the prime minister seeks the floor test in Parliament and expands his Cabinet. But the dates are yet to be fixed,”said Haribal Gajurel, Dahal’s political adviser.

During an interaction with some editors on January 15, the prime minister had revealed that he would make New Delhi his first port of call.

The prime minister is also invited to the Boao Forum for Asia that is scheduled to take place from March 28 to 31 in Boao town of Qionghai city, South China’s Hainan province. But it is not sure whether the prime minister would visit China ahead of India—and while he has his hands full settling power-sharing negotiations among the parties supporting the government.

In 2008, after being elected prime minister for the first time, Dahal went off the beaten track to visit Beijing for the Olympics inaugural ceremony without first travelling to India, as Nepali prime ministers have traditionally done. Dahal later tried to control the damage and upon his return from Beijing said that his first ‘official’ visit would still be to India.

Having thus caused deep suspicions in the officialdom in New Delhi, Dahal, in his second stint as prime minister, first went to India on a state visit in September, 2016.

Some foreign policy experts said the prime minister would definitely visit India first as he could not be seen as undermining India’s importance.

“In this present context, the prime minister cannot ignore or avoid India,” said Mrigendra Karki, executive director of the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Tribhuvan University (TU).

“Dahal must have learned his lesson from his two previous terms as government head. So, this time, he is unlikely to make India unduly suspicious by visiting China first,” Karki said.

When he tried to tilt towards China in the past, India no longer trusted him, he added. “He knows by now that it will be difficult for him to work smoothly as prime minister without first winning India’s trust.”

In July last year, Dahal visited India at the invitation of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president J.P. Nadda. In addition to the BJP president, he had at the time met external affairs minister of India S. Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Dahal’s planned India visit was briefly discussed with Indian foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra when he went to Kathmandu in February.

Anil Giri is a reporter covering diplomacy, international relations and national politics for The Kathmandu Post. Giri has been working as a journalist for a decade-and-a-half, contributing to numerous national and international media outlets.

This article was originally published on The Kathmandu Post.