Stage set for Nepal PM’s India visitOctober 2nd, 2011 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Oct 2 (IANS) Baburam Bhattarai, Nepal’s new Maoist prime minister, will this month make his first official trip to India - the country’s biggest trade partner - ahead of a critical constitutional deadline.
The 57-year-old scholar from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), whose election as Nepal’s 35th prime minister in August was hailed by India and other foreign governments, will visit New Delhi for four days, starting Oct 21, according to the preliminary schedule.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Bhattarai had held consultations about the imminent visit with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, when the two held bilateral talks in New York last month on the sidelines of the 66th UN General Assembly.
At an interaction with journalists in Kathmandu, Bhattarai said his government, being an interim one, would not take up issues of abiding national interest like bilateral treaties during the India visit but would focus on more immediate issues.
Power would be a key subject on the agenda with Nepal anticipating long hours of power outage during the winter when its electricity-generating main river Kulekhani begins to dry up.
The Bhattarai government will seek India’s cooperation to import at least about 200 MW of power from India and would also push to expedite the repair and setting up of power transmission lines between India and Nepal.
Trade will be another major issue, with the growing trade deficit with India rising to NRs.218.28 billion, after a 23.22 percent rise in fiscal 2010-11 compared to the previous year.
Nepal is seeking greater Indian investment and the Maoist government seeks to assure New Delhi that Indian investment in Nepal will be protected despite the bleak industrial scenario in the Himalayan republic due to militant trade unionism, mostly spearheaded by Bhattarai’s own party.
Indian tobacco major ITC’s joint venture Surya Nepal closed its garments factory in Nepal this year after it was attacked by a mob of workers, mostly women, and the Manipal Group suffered a long strike by junior doctors last month, forcing the group to say it would consider pulling out.
With India having once contributed to brokering the peace agreement between the Maoists and other parties, the New Delhi trip could be crucial for effecting a fresh understanding between the Maoists and the major opposition parties, the Nepali Congress, that has close ties with India’s ruling Congress party, and the communists.
The Delhi visit comes ahead of a critical deadline on Nov 30. The Bhattarai government would have to ready a first draft of the much-awaited constitution by then or face the threat of dissolution.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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