Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ has said that he will visit India soon on his first foreign trip after assuming the top executive post of the country for the third time.
The 68-year-old CPN-Maoist Centre leader, thought to be close to China, was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the third time on December 26 last year after he dramatically walked out of the pre-poll alliance led by the Nepali Congress and joined hands with opposition leader K P Sharma Oli.
“I will be visiting India soon,” Prachanda told senior editors on Saturday during his first interaction with select journalists after winning the vote of confidence on Tuesday. He said that preparations are going on at the diplomatic level for the same.
“The concerned embassies are making preparations for my visit,” he told the journalists at Baluwatar, the official residence of the Prime Minister.
However, the Nepal government is yet to officially announce the Prime Minister’s visit to India.
The date and itinerary of the visit are yet to be finalised.
“We are working towards finalising the date and detailed programmes as well as the agenda of the visit in coordination with our counterparts,” an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
“Visiting a neighbouring country by the Prime Minister after assuming the position is a normal process and internally we are always prepared for that,” the official added.
Prachanda had also paid official visits to India during his earlier tenures as the Prime Minister of Nepal.
In July last year, Prachanda visited India at the invitation of BJP President J P Nadda.
Nepali Prime Ministers traditionally choose New Delhi for their first foreign visit after being sworn-in. But Prachanda after being elected prime minister for the first time in 2008 went off the beaten track to visit Beijing for the Olympics inaugural ceremony without first travelling to India.
He, however, in his second stint as a prime minister first travelled to India on a state visit in September, 2016.
Prachanda’s visit will happen only after the election of the new President, two leaders of the CPN (Maoist Centre) who are familiar with the developments told The Kathmandu Post newspaper.
“However, if the Indian side insists on the visit before the new President is elected, the trip may even take place earlier,” one of them said.
The presidential vote is due in February as the term of President Bidya Devi Bhandari expires in March-end. As per the Constitution, the election is held a month prior to the expiry of the incumbent’s term.
When Nepalese Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal visited India in September, he invited Indian counterpart Vinay Mohan Kwatra, a former Indian ambassador to Kathmandu, for a return visit, a senior foreign ministry official told the newspaper.
“Kwatra will probably make the return trip to Kathmandu for the foreign secretary-level meeting after the prime minister gets a formal invitation to visit India,” the official said.
On December 30, Indian Ambassador Naveen Srivastava, while handing over a written congratulatory message by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Prachanda, extended the invitation, sources told the newspaper.
Responding to Modi’s message, Prachanda said that he wants to work closely with New Delhi, speed up the implementation of India-funded projects and improve Nepal-India ties.