KATHMANDU — Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Feb. 2 wrapped up her two-day political visit to Nepal where she got wide assurance that the new government in Kathmandu, set to be headed by Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) chief K.P. Sharma Oli, will work closely with New Delhi.
India's outreach to Nepal's Prime Minister-in-waiting Oli, with whom Swaraj held two meetings, saw both sides agreeing to work together for the betterment of Nepal-India relations in the "new changed context."
The assurance of betterment in ties came during her three important political engagements in Kathmandu Feb. 1 and 2 where she met key political actors of Nepal – Oli; Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda,' chairman of the CPN (Maoist Center); and Madhes-based leaders who are respectively forming governments at the Center and in the seven provinces. Two Madhes-based parties will form government in Province no. 2 in the Madhesi heartland.
The objective of Swaraj's visit was to reach out to Oli, who has had a "patchy and acrimonious" relationship with India since 2015, and who New Delhi is apprehensive may tilt towards China as he did during his last tenure as prime minister.
Oli held one-on-one meeting with Swaraj for over an hour and held delegation-level talks with top UML brass Feb. 1, demonstrating his desire to mend ties with India in the changed context.
UML's secretary Pradip Gywali put out the perspectives of the outcome of the meeting. "Both Oli and Sushma have agreed to work together for the betterment of the Nepal-India relations in the new changed context. While congratulating the UML for its victory and people's mandate, Sushma Swaraj extended congratulations to the UML and its leadership saying that Nepal is getting a stable government and we want to work with the new government in Nepal," he said.
A Foreign Ministry statement after her meetings with President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, said both sides expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral relations and discussed matters of mutual interest.
Swaraj expressed pleasure over the successful holding of elections at the local levels, Provincial Assembly and Federal Parliament in Nepal. She conveyed that the government of India is willing to work with the government of Nepal to further strengthen age-old bilateral ties and continue cooperation for the socio-economic development of Nepal, the statement reads.
During her separate meetings with three political stakeholders, she had categorically communicated the message of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who congratulated the Nepali people for holding the three-tired elections and was eager to work with the government in Nepal, likely to dominated by the communists.
Meanwhile, India's Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that Swaraj conveyed to all political leaders of Nepal that the government of India is looking forward to working with the democratically elected government to take forward bilateral ties to newer heights for mutual benefit, and to support the government of Nepal, as per its priorities, in its endeavors for rapid economic growth and development. She congratulated the government and people of Nepal for the successful conducting of three-tier elections in Nepal, which is an important milestone in the democratic transition of Nepal, the statement read.
In response, Oli said that he is also looking forward to working with the Indian government; and is keen to work closely in areas such as poverty alleviation.
Maoist Chairman Prachanda, speaking of his meeting with Swaraj, said, "The Indian external affairs minister reiterated that India wished to see political stability and development in Nepal, pledging all possible support towards that end. She also congratulated the Left alliance on its majority victory in the recent federal parliament and provincial assembly elections."