KATHMANDU, Jan 22: In what has been described as a manifestation of India's policy of engagement with Nepal's upcoming leftist government, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called CPN-UML Chairman K P Sharma over the telephone.
This is the second call made by the Indian prime minister to Chairman Oli after the left alliance won a landslide victory in the recently held parliamentary and provincial assembly polls. Earlier, Modi had called three senior leaders including NC President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Oli in the third week of December, a few weeks after the successful completion of the polls.
Foreign policy analysts in Kathmandu said Sunday's telephone call from the Indian prime minister may have come as part of India's policy of engagement with the new leadership in Nepal, given the fact that Chairman Oli is widely seen as the prime minister-in-waiting in Nepal. There is a palpable concern among Indian politicians, policymakers and strategic thinkers that India's failure to engage the left government could further push Nepal into the arms of China.
The relations between Nepal and India reached a new low during the premiership of Oli shortly after the promulgation of the new constitution in September 2015. As Kathmandu and New Delhi were not in good terms during Oli's premiership, many in India see Oli as 'not friendly' to India -- an allegation Oli and his party UML reject outright.
Indian Embassy spokesperson Ruby Jaspreet confirmed that Prime Minister Modi held a telephone conversation with Chairman Oli at around 4:30 pm. She, however, said that no further details were available about the conversation between Modi and Oli.
According to a press statement issued by Oli's Personal Secretariat, Prime Minister Modi had called him to extend the greetings of New Year 2018. Modi congratulated Oli as the future prime minister of Nepal and also extended an invitation to visit India, according to Oli's secretariat.
The statement issued by Oli's personal secretary Chetan Adhikari said Oli also extended Prime Minister Modi to visit Nepal as he had previously expressed interest to visit two holy sites -- Ram Janaki Temple and Muktinath Temple -- in Nepal. Earlier, the visits to these holy sites could not take place due to security reasons.