1 Nov, Kathmandu :

The three-day state visit of Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, the 13th President of India, to Nepal at the invitation of President Bidya Devi Bhandari beginning tomorrow is believed to start a new era in the bilateral ties between the two countries.

The visit is expected to contribute to further deepening and consolidating the centuries-old bilateral relations between the two South Asian neighbours who are both members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

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Citizens of both countries are convinced that this visit at the highest level – at the Head of State level – which is taking place after a gap of 18 years will contribute to promoting mutual understanding and making the bond of friendship intensely cooperative through enhanced religious, spiritual, economic, educational, cultural and diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Although the diplomatic relations between Nepal and India, which attained independence after its victory against the British colonialism through a non-violent struggle, were established on 13 June 1947, the Nepali leaders had strengthened the relations at the people’s level by supporting the pioneer leaders of the ‘Quit India’ movement – Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Subash Chandra Bose. India has praised the contribution of Nepali leaders the late BP Koirala, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Girija Prasad Koirala among others to that movement.

Several instances that exemplify Nepal-India friendship have now become history while presently the two countries are headed towards taking the mutual goodwill, cooperation and friendship to an unparalleled height by creating a new history from a new perspective.

The two countries that started formal relations with the signing of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 have agreed to amend its ‘impractical’ aspects as well, which can be considered an attempt towards building on the mutual friendship from a new angle. The Nepal-India relations subsisting at the governmental and people’s level is moving towards consolidation of mutual understanding, prosperity and peace after passing through various ups and downs.

Indians take the 80-year-old Mukherjee, a veteran leader who has spent six decades in active politics, as a sure-shot person who can solve complex problems. Mukherjee also served as the Minister for Finance, Defence and External Affairs of the Federal Government of India at various times. He is also a experienced planner. Nepal is not a new country to Mukherjee who has also served as the Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission of India. He is an old friend of Nepal.

Albeit the visit of a ceremonial President of India to Nepal will not leave a special impact in supporting the overall development of Nepal as is expected from a visit by the Executive Head of Government, the people of the two countries are confident that President Mukherjee’s visit will make concrete contribution to expansion of goodwill and cordiality between the two countries.

Nepal and India have social, cultural and religious commonality while both are characterised by multi-language, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic social structure.

Geographical proximity brings the peoples of both countries even closer. Moreover, India has been the main centre for trade and commerce and economic activities for Nepal and the Nepalis. Nepal-India relation is unique in the world and it is intricately interdependent. This intricate relation is at times found punctuated by some mistrust and misunderstanding. But the two countries have become successful in defeating this through the conduct of wise and pragmatic diplomacy. President Mukherjee’s visit too needs to be seen in this light.

India has been extending economic and technical cooperation to Nepal for the last six and a half decades for Nepal’s development endeavours. India has also given moral backing to Nepal in different democratic movements in Nepal such as the overthrow of the Rana rule, the one-party Panchayat rule, in the establishment of the republic and constitution writing.

The assistance that Nepal has continued receiving in its development efforts in education, health, drinking water, infrastructure development, agriculture and telecommunications are the results of exchange of such high-level visits between the two countries. These kinds of visits not only help both neighbours to understand each-other and alleviate grievances, they also express the aspirations for development of the people of both countries, thereby facilitating in the creation of an environment or their implementation.

The construction and implementation of innumerable development projects with an outlay of billions of rupees undertaken with the assistance of India has further deepened and expanded the friendly relations between the two countries. Some of the major projects undertaken with Indian assistance are the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS) at Dharan, the Bir Hospital Extension Project, the Paropakar Prashuti Hospital Expansion Project, construction of 22 bridges on the Kohalpur-Mahakali Highway, the Rxaul-Sirsiya Broadgauge Railway line extension project, construction of the Hulaki Rajmarga (highway), the Greater Janakpur Development Project, the Rangeli-Bhadrapur and Chatara-Birpur Road Project, construction of Outer Ring Road in Janakpur, construction of embankments on the Bagmati, Lalbakaiya and Kamala rivers, the Koshi and Gandaki projects, the Saptakoshi Barrage, construction of proposed east-west railway and laying of optical fibre from Mechi to Mahakali. RSS

Sharachchandra Bhandary