KATHMANDU, Oct 6: Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is likely to visit Lumbini, the birthplace or Lord Buddha, the Ram Janaki Temple in Janakpur, and the tourist city of Pokhara, in the course of his Nepal visit in November.
Officials from both the Nepali and Indian sides have been working on plans for the Indian president's travel to the three places outside the capital city of Kathmandu, said a highly-placed source at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). Mukherjee is scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu on November 2 on a three-day state visit at the invitation of President Bidyadevi Bhandari.
MoFA confirmed Mukherjee's visit on Monday. “The Indian president has shown interest in visiting Lumbini, Pokhara and Janakpur and we believe his visit to Lumbini will help dispel any confusion about the birthplace of Lord Buddha,” said a top official at the ministry. He, however, requested anonymity as officials are yet to finalize the plan for the visits outside the Valley.
The visit by the Indian president is being looked upon as important for improving Nepal-India relations that soured last year following the Indian blockade against Nepal. This will be the highest-level visit from India since the promulgation of the new Constitution. India has not welcomed the new Constitution of Nepal but has appreciated efforts to amend it.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also expected to visit Lumbini and Janakpur when he came to Nepal two years ago. But these visits were cancelled.
Meanwhile, the source also claimed that the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal is unlikely to take place any time soon. “Prime Minister Dahal will hold a meeting with the Chinese president during the BRICS Summit in Goa, India later this month. That meeting is likely to prepare an environment for Xi's Nepal visit,” said the source.