Jul 8 2013, 1:10pm CDT | by Luigi Lugmayr
Kathmandu, July 8 — As India's External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid begins his first visit to Nepal Tuesday, political leaders and diplomats in Kathmandu expect that the trip will help the country overcome the long political stalemate it is facing.
The visit, announced earlier as a two-day one, has been trimmed for a day only. Khurshid will arrive Tuesday morning in Kathmandu and will return to New Delhi in the evening.
The current peace process, elections to the Constituent Assembly and drafting a constitution were the results of a New Delhi-backed 12-point agreement in 2005, an instrument that subsequently released Nepal from a century-old monarchy and later declared the Himalayan nation as a secular, federal and republic country.
Since the signing of the agreement in New Delhi in 2005, India has constantly said it wants to see political stability, economic progress and a prosperous Nepal.
"Nepal-India relations are unique," Nepal's former foreign minister Upendra Yadav told IANS.
"At a time when Nepal is struggling to come out from the protracted political transition, Khurshid's visit would help us overcome remaining difficulties of the peace and constitution drafting processes," Yadav said.
Yadav was deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs during 2008-09 when Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" was prime minister.
During his trip to Kathmandu, Khurshid will be meeting President Ram Baran Yadav, chairman of the Interim Elections Council Khil Raj Regmi, and leaders of major political parties.
"It is a goodwill visit pledging support for the democratic aspirations of the Nepali people," a senior diplomat at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu told IANS.
Nepal will hold elections to the Constituent Assembly Nov 19.
Ram Karki, the foreign department chief of Nepal's UCPN (Maoist) party, however, has a different perspective about Khurshid's visit.
"We must welcome the guest, but at a time when we are in a deep political stalemate, it would be good if the close neighbours keep away from our internal affairs," Karki said.
He was also referring to the recent visit of Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who pledged 10 million yuan as electoral assistance to Nepal.
Karki claimed that of late, Nepal's two giant neighbours, India and China, have upped their "tentacles" in Nepal and are gradually increasing their engagements at multiple levels.
"They (India and China) both fear that Nepal should not turn into another Balkan state or Afghanistan. If instability remains long-drawn-out, it will have direct ramification to India and China."
Khurshid will also meet his Nepali counterpart Madhav Ghimire, and discuss the entire gamut of bilateral relations, economic assistance to Nepal and Indian solidarity for Nepal's decision to hold polls.
"We do not limit this visit as a customary one, at a time when Nepal is undergoing huge political transition," said former Nepali ambassador Shambu Ram Simkhada.
"India has been playing a key role in every big change in Nepal, whether it be 1950 or 1990 or 2006. The recent floods and landslides in Uttarakhand and yesterday's (Sunday) blast in Bodh Gaya illustrate how important the relation is. These two incidents have exhibited how close relations we have with India," said Simkhada.
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