Modi to arrive in Kathmandu today; will he hold talks with Sharif?


narendra modi1Prime Minister Narendra Modi left on Tuesday for the 18th edition of the Saarc Summit to be held in Nepali capital Kathmandu and the focus will be whether he will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after a chill in bilateral relations.

In a series of tweets before leaving, he emphasised the importance of “greater regional integration at all levels for socio-economic development of South Asian region” and put forward his agenda.

“We hope that the Summit will lead to concrete outcomes, particularly in regard to various initiatives on enhancing connectivity,” Modi posted on Twitter.

“I also look forward to holding bilateral discussions with other South Asian Heads of State & Government on the margins of SAARC Summit.”

This will be Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to Nepal in four months which he highlighted in his tweets saying it “reflects importance we attach to our unique and special relations with Nepal”.

“There has been significant progress in the implementation of the decisions taken during my visit to Nepal in August 2014.”

The big question, on the sidelines of each Saarc summit, is of course whether Modi and Sharif will meet. Coming after a season of chill – where India called off foreign secretary level talks and the international border and LOC saw some heavy cross border shelling – this assumes salience.

It has been increasingly clear that Modi and Sharif will meet, the question is what will be the nature of the meeting.

Will it merely be a handshake at the summit venue? Will it a pull aside at the informal retreat in Dhulikhel for a brief chat? Or will it be a full bilateral meeting to resume the conversation they left off in May?

Both governments are tight-lipped about the agenda.

Modi may have cancelled his visits outside Kathmandu, but when he arrives in the Nepali capital on Tuesday afternoon, he will have a packed schedule with his Nepali counterparts.

According to the Modi’s tentative schedule for the day, to which HT has access, the PM will arrive in Kathmandu in the afternoon. He is scheduled to go to his hotel, Soaltee Crowne Plaza, and then head to central Kathmandu.

Modi and PM Sushil Koirala will jointly inaugurate the Trauma Centre of Bir Hospital, built with Indian support, and hand it over to the hospital authorities.

The PM will then cross over to the Tundikhel army pavilion and gift the Nepalese army an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) — Dhruv Mark 3. The chopper has been manufactured by state-owned aerospace and defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

The Mark-3 is the latest version of the original Dhruv helicopter and comes equipped with Shakti engines, new electronic warfare (EW) suite and warning systems, automatic chaff and flare dispensers and improved vibration control system. The helicopter can cost anywhere between Rs. 60-80 crore.

The PM will then go to Singha Durbar, the seat of government in Kathmandu, where he will have bilateral exchanges with Koirala and multiple – some sources suggest six – agreements will be signed.

These include a power development agreement for Arun 3 project between the Nepal Investment Board and Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam; an MOU on tourism; a motor vehicle agreement which will include starting bus services from Kathmandu to Delhi; an MOU where Kathmandu and Varanasi, Lumbini and Gaya and Janakpur and Ayodhya may be declared sister cities; and a pact on traditional medicine.

India will also help build a police academy on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

Modi and Koirala will then flag off the first state run bus service between the two capitals.

At night, the PM will attend a dinner hosted by President Ram Baran Yadav. He will meet the entire spectrum of Nepal’s leadership – many of whom will also have separate bilateral meetings with him over the next two days. This is the first of the two dinners Yadav will host.