Nepal foreign minister on India visit

August 10th, 2009 - 3:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Kathmandu, Aug 10 (IANS) Nepal’s Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala Monday left for New Delhi for a five-day goodwill visit at the invitation of Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, saying it would add a new dimension to India-Nepal ties and resolve misunderstandings.
Koirala, the daughter of five-time former Nepali prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala and aunt of Bollywood star Manisha Koirala, will set the stage for the visit to India next week of Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Koirala will focus on economic diplomacy during her visit, lobbying for greater Indian investment and cooperation as well as the signing of three important economic pacts.

The foreign minister will open talks for a key revision in the India-Nepal Trade Treaty, which comes up for renewal in 2012.

In the 70s, the two neighbours had a single trade and transit treaty for bilateral trade which was later broken up into two separate treaties for convenience.

While the transit treaty is renewed every seven years, the trade treaty so far has to be re-inked every five years.

With Nepali investors saying the time frame is too short to benefit investors, the Nepal government had been seeking a 10-year shelf life for the trade pact.

Eventually, both sides have agreed to revise the treaty so that it will be renewable every seven years, Koirala said.

Power-starved Nepal has accorded top priority to hydropower and Koirala will be seeking fresh Indian investment in the sector as well as in infrastructure and other key areas.

With the fate of earlier Indian investment in Nepal’s thorny hydropower sector uncertain, Koirala will open negotiations for the signing of a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement. Also in the pipeline is a third agreement for the avoidance of double taxation.

The foreign minister will also open talks on establishing a special economic zone in Birgunj town on the India-Nepal border where India has a consulate.

The Nepali foreign minister will meet her Indian counterpart, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Tuesday. On Wednesday, she is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

Besides, she will also hold talks with Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

Besides trade and investment, she will also discuss issues of bilateral interests, which includes border encroachment allegations, security and the current political situation.

Koirala will also meet Indian opposition leader L.K. Advani and Rajnath Singh, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Nepali foreign minister’s visit is also expected to establish a personal rapport since she spent her childhood in India when her father was jailed during the pro-democracy struggle in Nepal and her family went into exile.

Sujata Koirala had studied in Visva Bharati, the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore in West Bengal and had maintained links with Indian leaders, including the late Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, to lobby for her father’s release as a school girl.

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