Nepal president in Delhi on four-day visit

New Delhi, Feb 15 (IANS) On his first ever foreign visit, Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav reached Delhi on a four-day state visit during which he will sign several agreements as well as visit Haridwar for the Maha Kumbh Mela.

Yadav, accompanied by a large delegation, was received at the airport by Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur on his arrival at around 12.30 p.m.

He was taken to the ceremonial lounge and then in a convoy to Taj Palace hotel, where he is staying.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao called on the president Monday evening.

The operational part of the visit will begin Tuesday when Yadav will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. President Pratibha Patil will host a banquet in honour of the Nepali guest.

Yadav will also meet the rest of the Indian leadership from Vice President Hamid Ansari to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj.

The two countries are likely to sign four agreements — extension of railway services, an air services deal, construction of a polytechnic and a convention hall near the India-Nepal border.

On Wednesday, Yadav will visit Haridwar, which is hosting the Maha Kumbh Mela that takes place every 12 years.

Making India the first foreign port of call after being elected in 2008, Yadav, who did his medical studies in Kolkata, is giving out a strong signal to the Maoists, whose rhetoric had become stridently anti-Indian in the recent months.

Incidentally, Yadav, who replaced King Gyanendra as the head of state, had clashed with the Maoists immediately after election in 2008 over the reinstatement of the army chief.

The invitation to visit India was long-standing, but was postponed due to political turmoil and then controversy over the Hindi oath-taking of Vice President Parmanand Jha.

Before the 27-member presidential delegation left for New Delhi on a routine Nepal Airlines flight, Yadav held talks with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

On Sunday evening, Maoist chief Prachanda also called on the president to discuss the India visit.

The presidential visit comes on the eve of a new constitution Nepal’s government has pledged to promulgate in May.

Nepal’s fragile peace process that began after a decade of insurgency is expected to be consolidated by the new statute. However, hiccups continue with the Maoists now saying they will agree to the rehabilitation of their guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), only after the new statute comes into effect.

The current year is to be a decisive one for Nepal with general elections also expected within six months following the new constitution.

The Indian government is supporting the new constitution and election, and says it wants to see a peaceful and prosperous Nepal as any violence in the neighbouring country is bound to spill over into India.

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