With an aim of starting”new chapter” of India’s relations with Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Nepal on Sunday to a rousing welcome with his counterpart in a special gesture receiving him at the airport.
Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to pay a bilateral visit to Nepal in 17 years, was received at the Tribhuvan International Airport by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala who deviated from protocol for the purpose.
A colorful ceremonial guard of honour was presented to Prime Minister Modi at the airport with the anthems of India and Nepal being played.
PM Modi was also offered a 19-gun salute by the Nepal Army.
The route from the airport to the hotel, a drive of about 10 minutes, saw an impromptu line up of the local people who had turned out in large numbers, waving flags and clicking photographs with cameras as well as mobile phones.
“I am excited about my visit and pleased that I am able to go there within weeks of assuming office as Prime Minister,” Modi had said in his pre-departure statement summing up the sentiment attached to the two-day trip.
A personal element is also attached to the visit of the Prime Minister as he will be reuniting a 26-year-old Nepalese youth Jeet Bahadur with his family after over 16 years.
PM Modi has brought along with him Bahadur whom he had accidentally found in bad condition in Ahmedabad about 16 years back then looked after him.
At the hotel where the Indian delegation is staying, Prime Minister Modi met Bahadur’s family members who have moved here from their native place Kawasoti in Nawalparasi district in western Nepal where they live in a slum area.
On the official part, Modi will be holding talks with his counterpart Koirala and meet other political leaders. He will also have the rare honour of addressing Nepal’s Constituent Assembly.
Ahead of his visit, Modi had said that he looks forward to working with the Nepalese leadership to forge a “new relationship” by identifying steps to strengthen bilateral cooperation in key sectors, including trade and investment, hydropower, agriculture and agro-processing, environment, tourism, education, culture and sports.
“I hope my visit will open a new chapter in India-Nepal relations, characterised by more frequent political engagement and closer cooperation across the full spectrum of our extraordinarily broad-based relations, which will serve as a model and catalyst for South Asian partnership for prosperity,” PM Modi had said.
Describing Nepal as a close friend and neighbour, he had said, “We have had the privilege of being a leading partner in Nepal’s socio-economic development. We are committed to continue our support to Nepal in its development efforts.”
During the visit, the two countries are expected to sign agreements in sectors like power. India may also announce economic aid for the country.
In 1997, then Prime Minister I K Gujral had visited Nepal. The last Indian Prime Minister to visit Nepal was A.B. Vajpayee in 2002 for a SAARC summit.
During his stay, PM Modi would also perform a half-an- hour special prayer at the 5th century Pashupatinath temple. The temple, listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Shiva in the world.
Prime Minister Modi was accompanied by National Security Advisor Ajit K Doval and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh.