When the leftist alliance is about to form a new government in Kathmandu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sends his External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Kathmandu with a political mission, apparently to repair the rough edges of New Delhi’s frayed ties with CPN- UML (Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist) Chairman KP Sharma Oli, who is tipped to be the next PM of Nepal.
Oli opposed the Indian blockade of Nepal in September 2015 and won the last elections on the boards of “nationalism” with the promise to maintain “balanced” relations between the direct neighbors, India and China.
During the second telephone conversation with Oli last week, the Indian prime minister said he was preparing to send Swaraj to Kathmandu while expressing his readiness to work with the new government in Kathmandu headed by Oli.
Swaraj is arriving later this week, with a “message” of PM Modi for the Nepali political leadership. The date of her visit was proposed on February 1 and 2. Unless anything changes in the Indian capital, Swaraj will land in Kathmandu on Thursday, said an official privy to the developments.
The announcement of her visit will probably take place on Monday, said both a Nepali and an Indian official. Swaraj will be the first high-level foreign visitor after the three elections in Nepal.
The date of the visit suggests that India wants to improve its relationship with Oli and his UML party. Relations between the two sides are often referred to as “patchy” and “harsh”, where Oli criticized the criticism of New Delhi’s policy in Nepal, especially after his government was overthrown in July 2016.
Nepal authorities don’t know what to expect of PM Modi message.
“We need to wait for her message. We don’t know yet what kind of message she will be carrying with her, what priorities Indian wants to set regarding Nepal and what course the relations are desired to take,” said Gyawali, the leader of UML.
The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu has already communicated to President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Oli, CPN (Maoist Centre) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhesi leaders about her visit as she would have meetings with them during her two-day visit.
A senior official of the Indian Embassy said: “As the largest democracy and a next-door neighbor, India should congratulate Nepali leaders who have recently concluded three tiers of the election. This is a great accomplishment in consolidating democracy and other political achievements of the last decade”.
During a recent event in Kathmandu, India’s ambassador to Nepal, Manjeev Singh Puri, explained that New Delhi is ready to cooperate with the new government of Nepal. “As a democratic country, India should recognize the achievements made by Nepal,” he said.