KATHMANDU, April 12: President Bidya Devi Bhandari is embarking on a five-day state visit to India from April 17-21 at the invitation of her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee.
According to separate press statements issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Nepal and the Indian External Affairs Ministry (MEA) on Wednesday, President Bhandari will hold meetings with the Indian President Mukherjee and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Likewise, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and other ministers will call on President Bhandari during her stay in India.
This is the first state visit of President Bhandari to India after assuming her office in October, 2015. "The upcoming visit reflects the priority that both India and Nepal attach to further strengthening of their age-old, unique, wide-ranging partnership, underpinned by shared historical and cultural linkage and strong people-to-people connections," read the MEA statement.
President Bhandari's earlier visit to India scheduled for May 9, 2016, was cancelled by Nepal in the last minute amid souring bilateral relations between the two countries. The then KP Oli-led government had also recalled Nepal's ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay, who was later re-appointed to the post by the current government.
No formal explanation was provided behind the eleventh-hour cancellation of the visit of the president and recalling of the envoy.
The visit of President Bhandari to India is taking place at a time when both the presidents are in their last leg of their presidency. While the term of President Bhandari is expiring early next year, India has already started looking for the successor to President Mukherjee.
Foreign affairs expert in Nepal have seen the upcoming visit of President Bhandari to India as an indication of ameliorating relations between the two countries that reached a historic low during the several months of economic blockade imposed by India in 2015.
As the bilateral relations between Nepal and India improved significantly especially after the formation of the new government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee paid a three-day state visit to Nepal last November.
Former Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey argued that Nepal should utilize the visit of President Bhandari to bridge the trust deficit that Nepal has with India in the recent days. "For the first time in the history, Nepal is facing trust deficit with both her immediate neighbors - India and China. The main agenda of the visit should be to generate trust with the neighbors," he said.
Pandey also suggested to India to understand who the final voice in Nepal is and who can implement what is said."India must know who the final voice in Nepal is and who can implement what is said. Trust between the two countries can be built up again if that happens," he further said.
President Bhandari will attend a dinner hosted by Nepal's Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay on April 17. On the second day of her visit, President Bhandari will attend the ceremonial reception and inspect a Guard of Honor at the Rastrapati Bhavan of India, reads the statement issued by MoFA.
During her stay in India, President Bhandari will also visit Gujrat and Odisha.