Koirala to meet Manmohan Singh in Myanmar

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By Anil Giri
Kathmandu, Feb 27 (IANS)
Sushil Koirala, Nepal’s newly-installed premier, will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday on the sidelines of the third BIMSTEC Summit to be held in Naypyidaw, the Myanmarese capital.

This will give Koirala an opportunity to renew his invitation to his Indian counterpart to visit Nepal.

No Indian prime minister has officially visited Nepal in the last 13 years.

In the meeting next week, both sides will also review the status of bilateral relations as well as discuss the overarching priority of concluding the peace process in the Himalayan nation and completion of drafting a new constitution within a year, Nepal’s foreign ministry said.

As Koirala embarks on his first foreign visit since taking over the helm of the new government 16 days ago, his meeting with the Indian prime minister is of utmost priority on his agenda. Besides, he is also meeting other leaders of the BIMSTEC member states.

Koirala has already invited Manmohan Singh to visit Nepal before India goes to the general elections later this year. The meeting between Koirala and Manmohan Singh in Myanmar will set the tone for the latter’s visit to Nepal, otherwise Koirala would himself make a trip to India, a top diplomatic source told IANS.

Similarly, newly-appointed Foreign Minister of Nepal Mahendra Pandey will also separately meet with his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid in Myanmar. Besides discussing other issues, the two ministers will touch upon the topic of convening the meeting of the joint commission at the foreign minister level at the earliest which is an apex body looking into bilateral relations and projects that were formed during the Nepal visit of then Indian prime minister Chandra Shekhar in February 1991.

During Chandra Shekhar’s visit, both sides agreed, inter alia, to form a high-level task force for preparing a programme of cooperation under Nepal-India Joint Commission. Since its first meeting in New Delhi following its inception, the commission has not met. The respective foreign ministers of the two countries head the commission.

This time, three agreements — establishing a weather and climate centre in New Delhi, a permanent BIMSTEC Secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and a BIMSTEC culture centre in Bhutan — will be signed at the summit.

The prospect of finalising a free trade agreement among the member states, promotion of tourism, greater connectivity within the regional grouping and tackling climate change are on the agenda.

After the summit, Nepal will chair the regional grouping as well to convene the fourth summit of BIMSTEC member states.

(Anil Giri can be contacted at girianil@gmail.com)

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