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A security blanket was thrown over Kathmandu and the Nepal cabinet was meeting Saturday evening to discuss a revised draft of a power trade agreement (PTA) with India that’s expected to be signed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives here Sunday morning on a two-day official visit, the first by an Indian prime minister in 17 years.
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Nepal Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey told reporters he was confident that the PTA would be signed. He said all agreements reached during the meeting of the joint commission on July 26 — it was held after 23 years and was co-chaired by Pandey and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj — would be endorsed during Modi’s visit.
Officials familiar with the exchange of PTA drafts between the two countries said it was up to the Indians now to accept the final Nepal version.
Another meeting was underway to take a call on a project development agreement with India’s GMR on the 900-MW Upper Karnali hydel power project.
Ahead of Modi’s visit, army helicopters stepped up air surveillance and police patrolled the streets. A command centre has been set up to coordinate security arrangements that involve the army, armed police and the national intelligence. Indian securitymen have already flown in and the Hyatt Regency hotel where Modi and his entourage will stay is under heavy guard.
Modi’s aircraft is scheduled to land at 10.50 am Sunday at the Tribhuvan International Airport. He will be received at the airport by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who attended his swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan in May. The army will offer the Indian prime minister a gun salute and guard of honour.
From the airport, Modi will head to the Hyatt. In the afternoon, he will have a one-on-one meeting with Koirala at the Singha Durbar. This will be followed by bilateral talks there. At 4.15 pm, he will address the Parliament where he will be received by Speaker Subas Nembang.
Indian ambassador Ranjit Rae will host a reception at the Hyatt in the evening. This will be followed by a banquet hosted by Koirala at the Soaltee Crowne Plaza hotel.
On Monday, Modi will offer a special puja at the Pashupatinath temple in the morning. He will then call on President Ram Baran Yadav at Shital Niwas where a luncheon has been arranged.
CPN-Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and CPN-UML chief K P Sharma Oli will have separate meetings with Modi, who will also interact with Madhesi leaders. Before leaving for Delhi at 5.30 pm Monday, he will address Nepal’s businessmen at the Hyatt.
Modi’s visit has generated considerable interest across Nepal and television channels are beaming special programmes including one called Mayavi Modi. Expectations are running high and parties are urging the government to take the ties forward while ensuring that concerns of both countries are addressed.
The Madhesi leaders have already handed a memorandum to Koirala, seeking Indian assistance for road and rail projects in the Tarai. Koirala was said to have assured them that areas of cooperation had been identified after consulting parties.