Sushma Swaraj, Nepal minister discuss Oli’s India visit

New Delhi: Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s upcoming visit to India was among the issues discussed when the Himalayan nation’s Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel called on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj here on Sunday.

“FM Poudel discusses reconstruction assistance. Briefs EAM on political situation, remaining constitutional issues & PM Oli’s visit to India,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.

Poudel arrived in New Delhi on Sunday on a two-day visit to discuss reconstruction assistance following the earthquake in Nepal in April last year that claimed over 8,000 lives.

He is also scheduled to meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in this connection.

There has been speculation about the possibility of Oli’s visit to India after over 50 people were killed in the now more than five-month-long anti-constitutional protest by Madhesis in the southern Nepali Terai.

Most of the 41 transit and customs points along the southern portion of the Himalayan nation’s open border with India have been besieged by Madhesi protesters who are demanding, among other things, a redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces in Nepal as proposed in the new Constitution — promulgated on September 20 last year — and representation in parliament on the basis of population.

Unnerved by the prolonged Madhesi agitation, the ruling coalition and the opposition last month approved two amendments to the four-month-old Constitution partly meeting the demands of the protesters.

However, the Madhesi Morcha spearheading the agitation has rejected the amendments and announced a fresh agitation besides calling for a broader alliance among all forces in the Terai-Madhes region.

The blockade of trucks from India to Nepal by the Madhesis has led to severe shortage of medicines and other essential supplies in the Kathmandu Valley.

Swarup, however, said in a media briefing here last week that now the situation has improved quite a lot.

“Now, about 1,300 trucks are passing daily. The waiting is down to about 300-400 trucks,” he said.

The spokesman said that before this whole logjam started, about 1,500 trucks used to go daily.

“Now 1,300 trucks are going and this is despite (the major border crossing points) Raxaul and Birgunj being blocked by the protesters on the Nepalese side. This tells you that the situation has normalised to a large extent,” he said.

Swarup said that as far as the constitutional amendments were concerned, India has welcomed those as good positive steps “and we hope that the remaining issues which the Madhesis have with the Nepalese government can also now be sorted out in a spirit of reconciliation, flexibility, compromise and dialogue”.