PM Modi in Nepal: Visit dates decided in advance says Gokhale

PM Modi in Nepal: Visit dates decided in advance says Gokhale

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale. PTI photo.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Nepal was decided soon after K P Sharma Oli's election as the prime minister, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale today said, amid speculation over its timing which coincides with the Karnataka assembly election.

Responding to a question at a press meet, Gokhale said Prime Minister Modi had telephoned Prime Minister Oli, who was sworn to the post on February 15, to congratulate him and the visits were discussed then.

"When Prime Minister Modi had telephoned Prime Minister Oli upon his election as the prime minister of Nepal, they had discussed the visit then. Prime Minister Oli had then expressed his desire for an early visit by Prime Minister Modi. They had discussed the visits, and the Prime Minister (Modi) had said you (Oli) come first.

"So that's how the sequence has been, first Prime Minister Oli visited India and now Prime Minister (Modi) is in Nepal," Gokhale said.

Oli had visited India in April.

On questions over the timing of the visit which coincides with the high-stake Karnataka assembly election, he said, "whenever state visits take place they are decided as per the convenience of the two nations. No one prime minister alone can say that I will come at this time."

"So, don't focus on the dates, but focus on the content of this visit," the foreign secretary said.

Modi arrived in Kathmandu yesterday on a two-day visit and held discussions with Oli on strengthening ties between the two neighbouring countries.

During the visit, the prime minister also offered prayers at the famed 20th century Janaki temple, the Mukhtinath and Pashupatinath temples and attended a civic reception at Janakpur.

Opposition Congress party leader Ashok Gehlot today alleged that prime minister Modi had timed his visit to the Himalayan nation on the Karnataka poll date and was "giving a message to Hindus" in the southern state.

Alleging violation of the model code of conduct, he said Modi's temple visits in Nepal were being aired on the day of polling in Karnataka.

"This is not a good tradition in a democracy. In Gujarat also, he held a road show after voting. Today, he has adopted a new path. When Karnataka is polling today, he has gone to Nepal and is worshipping in temples there, as he could not do so in the southern state due to elections," Gehlot said.