Pranab’s Nepal visit to help expedite post-quake work

New Delhi, Oct 28 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Nepal early next month will help expedite reconstruction work after last year’s massive earthquake in the Himalayan nation, a senior official said on Friday.

“We are giving particular focus on our ongoing development, connectivity and economic projects as well as a number of projects under lines of credit,” Sudhakar Dalela, Joint Secretary (North) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said at a media briefing here in connection with the November 2 to 4 presidential visit.

“These projects are being reviewed periodically at the highest level to ensure their timely implementation,” he said.

Dalela said India was trying to “move forward expeditiously” on the post-earthquake reconstruction projects after committing $1 billion assistance to Nepal.

“It is in this context of intensified engagement with Nepal that the state visit of Rashtrapatiji is taking place,” he said.

The deadly April 2015 earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured around 22,000 others in Nepal.

Mukherjee’s will be the first presidential visit from India to Nepal in 18 years after the visit of then President K.R. Narayanan in May 1998.

According to Dalela, during the visit from November 2 to 4, Mukherjee will hold meetings with Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”, Vice President Nanda Kishor Pun and other leaders over a variety of issues of mutual interest.

Kathmandu University will also be conferring an honorary doctorate on Mukherjee.

Venu Rajamony, Press Secretary to the President, said Mukherjee has had a long involvement with the people and political leaders of Nepal.

“He has been a person who has played an instrumental role on behalf of India in different capacities — as Defence Minister, as Finance Minister and as External Affairs Minister — in the process of democratic evolution within Nepal,” Rajamony said.

He said this would be the first ever high-level state visit from any country in the world after the democratic constitution was established in Nepal.

According to Rajamony, Mukherjee, as President, has received a large number of leaders from Nepal.

These include former President Ram Baran Yadav, former Prime Ministers Baburam Bhattarai and K.P. Sharma Oli, and Prime Minister Prachanda.

Asked about the agreements that would be signed during the visit, Dalela said the focus now was only on implementing those agreements that have already been signed.

He said the issue of constitution-drafting would also figure during Mukherjee’s meetings with various political leaders and civil society members, including Madhesi leaders.

Apart from Kathmandu, the President will also visit the lake city of Pokhara and the holy town of Janakpur.

In Pokhara, he will interact with ex-Gorkha servicemen who served in the Indian Army while in Janakpur he will visit cultural places and attend a civic reception in his honour.

Mukherjee will be accompanied by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhambre, DMK Rajya Sabha member L. Ganesan, BJP Lok Sabha members Jagadimbika Pal and R.K. Singh and one more MP whose name is yet to be finalised.