This will be Modi’s third trip to Nepal in his tenure, but the first after the promulgation of the new Nepali constitution in 2015, which India had “noted” and not ‘welcomed’.
In another sign of the restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations between India and Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Kathmandu and Janakpur on May 11, according to two Nepali officials, one Indian official and one political leader involved with planning the visit.
Modi’s visit, which is at the planning stage, would come a little over a month after Nepal’s new Prime Minister KP Oli visited Delhi between April 6 and 8 on his first foreign visit after being elected.
Apart from Kathmandu, Modi is expected to travel to Janakpur, an important religious centre in the Tarai plains, close to the border with Bihar, and where Lord Ram was supposed to have wed Sita according to the Ramayana.
An official in the Nepal government said: “We have been asked to make preparations for his (Modi’s) Janakpur visit. It has been long due.” Modi was supposed to have visited Janakpur in November 2014, when he went to Nepal to attend the SAARC summit, but this did not materialise because of objections from sections of the Nepal government.
This will be Modi’s third trip to Nepal in his tenure, but the first after the promulgation of the new Nepali constitution in 2015, which India had “noted” and not ‘welcomed’. This had generated deep bilateral discord. India was seen as supporting the Madhesis of the plains, who were unhappy with the constitution and had blocked the border in protest to cripple supplies to Kathmandu. The move had also generated a nationalist backlash in Nepal. K P Oli, who was serving his first term as Prime Minister then, had taken a strong position against Delhi and deepened ties with Beijing.
Oli lost power soon after and blamed “external forces” for his ouster.
But ties between India and Nepal have improved over the past two years. India reached out to Oli after his election earlier this year, and the Nepali leader reciprocated.
An interlocutor involved in backchannel talks, who asked not to be named, said: “India has to engage with the elected government of Nepal. Oli has said categorically he will not allow Nepali soil to be used against Indian interests. His India visit was successful and interactions here went well. By paying a reciprocal visit, Modi wants to maintain the momentum in ties and truly put past differences behind us.”