Nepal finance minister to visit India

New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) Nepal Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel will visit India next week which might help in finalising the dates for the proposed visit of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli to New Delhi, a senior government official said on Thursday.

“Finance Minister of Nepal Bishnu Poudel is scheduled to visit India on February 7-8 to discuss reconstruction assistance projects,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said at a media briefing here.

“Poudel is scheduled to meet our external affairs minister (Sushma Swaraj) and our finance minister (Arun Jaitley),” he said.

“We are very hopeful that after this visit, there will also be concrete discussions on the dates for Prime Minister Oli’s visit.”

There have been wide speculations about the possibility of Oli’s visit to India after over 50 people were killed in the now more than five-month-old anti-constitutional protest by Madhesis in the southern Nepali Terai.

Most of the 41 transit and customs points along the southern portion of the Himalayan nation’s open border with India have been besieged by the Madhesi protestors who are demanding, among other things, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in Nepal as proposed in the new Constitution — promulgated on September 20 last year — and representation in parliament on the basis of population.

Unnerved by the prolonged Madhesi agitation, the ruling major-Left coalition as also the main opposition Nepali Congress last month approved two amendments to the four-month-old Constitution partly meeting the demands of the protestors.

However, the Madhesi Morcha spearheading the agitation has rejected the amendments to the statute and announced a fresh agitation programme besides calling for a broader alliance among all forces in the Terai-Madhes region.

The blockade of trucks going from India to Nepal by the Madhesis along the international border has led to severe shortages of medicines and other essential supplies in the Kathmandu Valley.

Swarup, however, said that now the situation has improved quite a lot.

“Now, about 1,300 trucks are passing daily. The waiting is down to about 300-400 trucks,” he said.

The spokesman said that before this whole logjam started, about 1,500 trucks used to go daily.

“Now 1,300 trucks are going and this is despite the (major border crossing points) Raxaul and Birgunj being blocked by the protestors on the Nepalese side. This tells you that the situation has normalised to a large extent,” he said.

Swarup said that as far as the constitutional amendments were concerned, India has welcomed those as good positive steps “and we hope that the remaining issues which the Madhesis have with the Nepalese government can also now be sorted out in a spirit of reconciliation, flexibility, compromise and dialogue”.

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