Kathmandu : Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is flying to India on Sunday on a four-day official visit to Gujarat to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, to be held in Gandhinagar from January 10-12.
A Cabinet meeting on Wednesday sanctioned Prime Minister Deuba’s visit to India, where he will be leading a 25-member delegation.
Though this is Deuba’s second foreign trip since he was appointed Prime Minister on July 13 last year for the fifth time, this will be his first official visit to India.
In November last year, Deuba had travelled to Glasgow, Scotland, to participate in the UN climate conference. He had held an informal bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Glasgow as well.
Any Nepali PM’s visit to India is followed keenly, both in Kathmandu and Delhi.
Deuba’s visit to India comes on the heels of his comeback as a strong leader in the Nepali Congress from the party’s recently-concluded general convention.
“As of now, at least three Memorandums of Understanding on different sectors have been planned for signing in New Delhi,” a senior government official said, adding: “Besides signing the MoUs, the Prime Minister will make a strong pitch for investment and tourism promotion during his meeting with Modi and while using the platform of the Gujarat summit.”
Sources said an MoU will be on importing chemical fertiliser from India under a government-to-government deal, which has been pending for quite a while now.
During his meeting with Modi in November in Glasgow also, Deuba had raised the issue and urged the Indian Prime Minister to expedite the process.
“Since the agenda of procuring chemical fertiliser from India has been on the table for a long time, this time we are expecting a breakthrough,” said the official.
Nepal is set to face a shortage of chemical fertilisers, which could spell an economic disaster.
In June last year, Nepali and Indian officials had discussed the signing of a five-year deal to supply chemical fertilisers to Nepal.
As per the proposed deal, Nepal can buy up to 200,000 tonnes of chemical fertilisers, mostly urea, per year from the southern neighbour without issuing a global tender. The amount will be enough to meet Nepal’s 30 per cent annual fertiliser requirement.
Another MoU is related to commencing the cross-border Kurtha-Jayanagar rail service that has been awaiting final approval from both sides for a long time. After signing the standard operating procedure (SOP) in October last year, India in the same month had handed over the 34.9 km Kurtha-Jayanagar section of the railway infrastructure to Nepal.
The new infrastructure was built for broad gauge railway operation by replacing old infrastructure for narrow-gauge railway service, which had stopped seven-and-a-half years ago.
Another MoU is about rebuilding around 137 health posts with Indian assistance that Delhi had announced in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes.
Some other issues likely to figure in the meeting are Nepal’s plan to sell electricity in the Indian market, providing air entry routes to Nepal crucial for operating the Bhairahawa airport close to the border, renovation of the central library at the Tribhuvan University and some economic packages that India is currently considering at the top political level, said Nepali officials.
Since some heads of state, top industrialists and business leaders from India and abroad are participating in the Gujarat summit, Deuba will use the platform to attract investments to Nepal, according to officials.
Due to the fast-spreading Covid variant Omicron, the Prime Minister will be leading a small delegation and he will make a stopover in New Delhi on January 9 and leave for Gandhinagar the next day.
On January 10, the Prime Minister will participate in the summit, where he will meet Modi and some other leaders on the sidelines of the event, said officials who are preparing the visit.
Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit is a biennial event conceptualised in 2003, and the 2022 event on January 10-12 is its 10th iteration.
The Prime Minister has also requested visits to some religious sites in Gujarat like Somnath Temple and Dwaraka Temple.
Soon after he was appointed the Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba had received an invitation to visit India.