Sushma Swaraj to visit Nepal today as alliance of Communist parties prepares to form new government

Kathmandu: Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj arrives in Kathmandhu on a two-day visit on Thursday as the Left alliance in Nepal prepares to form a new government most likely to be led by former prime minister KP Sharma Oli.

Sushma Swaraj will first meet Oli, who has had strained relations with the Indian leadership, before taking up other engagements.

 Sushma Swaraj to visit Nepal today as alliance of Communist parties prepares to form new government

File image of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Twitter @MEAIndia

Her visit will be the first diplomatic engagement after elections in Nepal catapulted the alliance of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and CPN (Maoist Centre) to power.

The Indian minister will also call on outgoing prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'.

The timing of the visit ahead of the government formation underlines India's attempts to improve its ties with Oli, who is seen as close to China, and the CPN-UML, diplomats say.

Relations between India and Nepal became acrimonious in 2016. Oli was sharply critical of New Delhi's policy towards Nepal after his government was toppled in July that year.

Oli also turned against India following the 2015 blockade in Nepal that triggered an economic and humanitarian crisis.

The Indian government said on Monday that Sushma Swaraj's visit would be "in keeping with the tradition of regular high-level political exchanges between India and Nepal" which it added reflected "the importance the two countries attach to further strengthening it across diverse sectors".

Oli, as Prime Minister in 2015, signed several agreements with China, including trade and transit deals, with a view to end India's monopoly over the Nepali market.

The diplomatic engagement is taking place though the new prime minister is yet to be sworn in Nepal.

Soon after the election results were announced, prime minister Narendra Modi reached out to Oli and showed eagerness to welcome him in India.

Experts believe that the Sushma Swaraj trip was a "conciliatory" move by New Delhi to mend ties with Kathmandu.

Updated Date: Feb 01, 2018 12:38:24 IST