AsiaIndiaNepalSouthern Asia

Modi arrives in Nepal on his maiden visit

Kathmandu, Aug 3Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here Sunday to a grand welcome, with his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala breaking protocol to receive the Indian leader at the airport.

After getting off an Indian Air Force plane, Modi warmly shook hands with Koirala and other Nepalese leaders at the Tribhuvan International Airport before accepting a bouquet from Koirala.

As he stepped on the red carpet, the military presented him a guard of honour. The national anthems of both countries were played.

Modi waved to a large crowd gathered at the airport. Hundreds of cheering Nepali people lined up both sides of the two-kilometre route from the airport to the Hyatt Regency in Kathmandu, where Modi will stay.

After lunch, Modi is scheduled to meet Koirala for bilateral talks. In the evening he will address Nepal’s parliament.

This is the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister to Nepal in 17 years. Modi’s two-day visit ends Monday.

Assisting Modi in his talks will be National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh.

Modi and Nepal’s leaders are tipped to discuss a range of bilateral issues and some agreements are likely to be signed.

These include one in the field of hydropower.

“I am excited about my visit and pleased that I am able to go there within weeks of assuming office as prime minister,” Modi said in a pre-departure statement Saturday.

“We will identify steps to strengthen our bilateral cooperation in key sectors, including trade and investment, hydro power, agriculture and agro-processing, environment, tourism, education, culture and sports,” Modi said.

“I will also discuss with the Nepalese leadership and their business leaders how we can harness the full potential of the new digital age to empower and create new opportunities for the youth of the two countries.”

It is Modi’s second visit to a neighbouring country after Bhutan in June.

The last bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister to Nepal was by I.K. Gujral in June 1997. Indian prime ministers have gone to Nepal but as part of multilateral visits.

Modi will pray at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu and address the Nepalese business community Monday before returning home.