Kathmandu: India on Saturday told Nepal that the new government is very keen to impart "renewed momentum" to their multifaceted bilateral ties even as the two countries decided to step up cooperation in key areas of defence, security, trade and and hydro power.
As India makes efforts to deepen its diplomatic and economic engagement with its neighbours, visiting External Affairs Minister Minister Sushma Swaraj met Nepal`s top leaders including President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. Swaraj also met UCPN-Maoist chief and Leader of Opposition Prachanda.
The Nepalese leaders said the "historic opportunity" in taking bilateral ties with India to the "next level" must be seized by both the countries.
Swaraj is in Kathmandu to co-chair the meeting of the Indo-Nepal Joint Commission which was held today after a gap of 23 years and to prepare the ground for the two-day official visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from August 3 -- the first visit by an Indian Premier in over 17 years. The late Prime Minister I K Gujral had visited Nepal in 1997.
Describing Swaraj`s meetings with Nepalese leaders as "very fruitful and satisfying", the Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akbaruddin said her principal message during all the engagements was to emphasise that the new government in India was very keen to impart "renewed momentum" to the multifaceted bilateral ties.
"In all her meetings she said India considers Nepal to be a matter of high priority in our Foreign policy. We desire to nurture this relationship with regular exchanges including with high-level political engagements," he told reporters.
The Nepalese leaders during their meetings with Swaraj expressed their "happiness" and "excitement" over the initiative taken by India to bring new momentum in ties and said they have high expectations from the forthcoming visit of Modi.
Swaraj, who arrived here yesterday, is on on her second stand-alone visit to a neighbouring country after Bangladesh within two months of assuming charge. Modi`s first foreign trip after assuming office was to Bhutan.
"In general if I have to encapsulate the views, there is a lot of excitement in Nepal about India`s intention to reengage and reinvigorate the relationship. They are all looking forward to Prime Minister?s forthcoming visit and all feel that this is a historic opportunity to move to the next level in terms of our engagement with each other," Akbaruddin said.
Asked about her meeting with Prachanda, he said it went like a dream but did not give much details.
The JCM meeting, which was co-chaired by Swaraj and her Nepalese counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey, decided to set up an eminent persons group to identify new areas of cooperation and suggest measures to help both the countries seize all possible opportunities.