India’s Nepal engagement: Oli, Sushma agree to ‘forget past bitterness’

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Kathmandu, Feb 1 (IANS) Putting their frosty ties behind, Nepal’s Prime Minister in waiting K.P. Sharma Oli and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday agreed to “forget the past bitterness” and to move ahead with a fresh start to take bilateral ties to a new height.

In a bid to engage with the upcoming Left government in Nepal, Sushma Swaraj on Thursday held two meetings with CPN-UML chief Oli, who is set to form a new government.

The focus and objective of her visit was to meet and cultivate Oli, who is widely seen as Prime Minister in waiting, and who New Delhi is apprehensive may tilt towards China as he had done during his last tenure as Prime Minister in late 2015.

Sushma Swaraj, who arrived here earlier in the day, and Oli held a one-on-one meeting for over an hour, Oli’s press coordinator Chetan Adhikari said, without divulging any details.

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Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted about the meeting: “In her first engagement, EAM Sushma met K.P. Sharma Oli, Chairman of the CPN-UML and congratulated on his Party’s victory in the recent elections. The two held wide ranging discussions on ways to take the special relations between India and Nepal forward.”

After their one-on-one meeting, Oli and Sushma Swaraj held delegation level talks where senior UML leaders and top Indian officials, including its Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri, were present.

Sources said that both Oli and Sushma Swaraj have agreed to “forget the past bitterness” that was triggered after the blockade of the Nepal-India border and decided to move ahead with a fresh start to take the bilateral ties to a new height.

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Oli later hosted a dinner in honour of Sushma Swaraj and the visiting Indian delegation.

After dinner, Sushma Sushma held talks with Madhes-based leaders and discussed a wide range of issues, including that of the constitutional amendment in favour of the Madhesi population.

Ahead of the meeting with the Indian Minister, Oli during a joint meeting of UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, had informed them that “he had invited Sushma to Kathmandu”. The UML and Maoists are preparing a party merger ahead of government formation.

During the recent two telephonic conversations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the latest on January 21, Oli had advised that Sushma Swaraj be sent to Kathmandu so that both sides can sit together and discuss matters related to mutual interest, according to sources.

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“She is our guest,” said top UML leader Bamdev Gautam, adding that the visit aims to improve bilateral ties.

Oli and India shared very acrimonious ties after his government was toppled in July 2016.

He blamed India for hatching a conspiracy against his government and was a vocal critic of the five-month Nepal-India border blockade, always holding India responsible for it.

Before wrapping up the visit, Sushma Swaraj will meet with President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-Maoist Centre Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’.

–IANS

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