Nepal’s new prime minister Prachanda will visit India in September 2016 on his first foreign visit, seeking to repair the strained relationship between the neighbours, an official said on Wednesday. Nepal’s relationship with India – which is often accused of acting as a “big brother” to its smaller impoverished neighbour – soured after a months-long border blockade in 2015 by ethnic minority protesters.
Kathmandu accused India of imposing an “unofficial blockade” on the landlocked nation in support of the Madhesis, who share close cultural, linguistic and family links with Indians across the border. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, a former Maoist rebel chief better known by his nom de guerre ‘Prachanda’, sent special envoys to both neighbouring India and China shortly after taking office earlier this month.
“The focus of his visit is to evaluate the bitterness in the relationship after the blockade and resolve the problems,” Chandra Prakash Khanal, the prime minister’s political adviser, told AFP. Khanal said that during the visit, scheduled for September 15-18, leaders will also hold discussions on road connectivity, industrial development and support for Nepal’s reconstruction efforts after a devastating earthquake 2015.
Nepal is heavily dependent on India for fuel and other supplies. Guna Raj Luitel, editor of the Nepali daily Nagarik, said the prime minister’s visit to India, the traditional first stop for Nepali premiers, was a wise diplomatic move.
“India is an important neighbour for us, but right now there is a confusion in the relationship,” Luitel said. “During the visit he will have to assure that we want to maintain a good friendly relationship and respect India’s interests in Nepal.”
The new constitution introducedin 2015, the first drawn up by elected representatives, was meant to cement peace and bolster Nepal’s transformation to a democratic republic after decades of political instability and a 10-year Maoist insurgency. But ongoing discussions between the government and protesting parties have failed to yield an agreement.