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Modi to host Deuba, India lines up engagements with South Asian neighbours

Anirban Bhaumik, DH News Service, New Delhi, Aug 19 2017, 19:57 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI File photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI File photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba next week, as India plans a series of engagements with neighbouring South Asian nations amid escalating tension with China.

Deuba will arrive in New Delhi on Wednesday to commence his five-day visit to India. This is a first official visit to India after taking over as Prime Minister of Nepal on June 7 last. Apart from meeting Modi, Nepalese Prime Minister will also call on President Ram Nath Kovind, sources told the DH.

He will also visit Bodh Gaya in Bihar and the Tirupati Balaji Temple in Andhra Pradesh.

New Delhi has also lined up a series of engagements with other South Asian neighbours. Prime Minister will visit Naypyidaw next month to meet Myanmar's President Htin Kyaw and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit Dhaka to meet her Bangladesh counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali. She will also call on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Swaraj last week visited Kathmandu to attend the meeting of the foreign ministers of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). Apart from calling on Deuba and Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, she also had bilateral meetings Bhutanese Foreign Minister Damcho Dorjee and Sri Lanka's State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vasantha Senanayeke, on the sideline of the BIMSTEC meet.

New Delhi's engagements with the neighbouring country is aimed at sending out a message to Beijing at a time when India's strained relations with China worsened further due to the face-off between soldiers of the two countries at Doklam Plateau in western Bhutan.

China has been trying to spread its tentacles in South Asia, taking it beyond its “all-weather friend” and India's arch-rival Pakistan. Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives are among the South Asian nations, which have been a theatre of competition between India and China for geopolitical influence.

Modi reached out to Nepalese Prime Minister even before his arrival in New Delhi. He called Deuba on Friday to convey condolences at the loss of lives due to recent widespread flood in Nepal. Prime Minister also offered Rupees 250 million as assistance to help Nepalese Government provide relief and rehabilitation to flood-hit people of the country.

The two Prime Ministers will next week discuss India's assistance to several development projects in Nepal in addition to the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by April 2015 earthquake in the neighbouring country, sources told the DH.

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