Strains ease ahead of Nepal PM Oli's maiden visit to India

An unexpected lifting of the nearly six month-long border blockade with India and back-to- back high-level visits by Indian and Nepalese officials have cleared the decks for the much-awaited visit of Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli to India beginning February 19.

PTI| Last Updated: Feb 10, 2016, 20:52 PM IST

Kathmandu: An unexpected lifting of the nearly six month-long border blockade with India and back-to- back high-level visits by Indian and Nepalese officials have cleared the decks for the much-awaited visit of Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli to India beginning February 19.

The two neighbours, ties between whom had witnessed an all-time low following violent protests led by Madhesis, largely of Indian-origin, have warmed up to each other since the beginning of this month.

A surprise announcement on Monday by the agitating Madhesis over lifting the blockade of key border trade points with India fulfilled Oli's condition of embarking on his first trip overseas after assuming charge some four months ago.

The thaw in ties was evident when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to Nepal for a one-day visit to pay respects to former prime minister Sushil Koirala, who passed away yesterday.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Deepak Prasad Adhikary confirmed that Oli will leave Kathmandu for Delhi on February 19 to pay an official visit to India, but did not give any details saying they are yet to be worked out.

The beginning of the trip on February 19 also coincides with National Democracy Day in Nepal, sources close to the prime minister said, adding that he will attend the democracy day function in the morning before flying to Delhi.

Invitation to pay an official visit to China was pending and the government was preparing for the prime minister's visit to both the neighbouring countries, India and China. However, Oli was waiting for border blockade to be lifted to embark on his much-awaited visit to India.

He had earlier announced that he would not visit India unless the border blockade was lifted. Nepal alleged that the blockade in its southern border with India was imposed by Indian authorities, who are backing the agitation led by Madhesis - a charge India had vehemently denied.

The United Democratic Madhesi Front, the four-party alliance, officially announced withdrawal of their protests including the border blockade.

The Front had launched indefinite agitation protesting against the new Constitution promulgated on September 20 last year, saying it failed to address their concerns over representation and homeland.