KATHMANDU: Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday averted a diplomatic disaster by meeting leaders of the ruling CPN-UML just before returning to India after a three-day visit which she said was “productive” and “successful”.
The hour-long meeting between Sushma Swaraj and the CPN-UML party took place at Hyatt Regency Kathmandu where eight party leaders led by Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam were present.
CPN-UML leaders later said the Indian side blamed “miscommunication” as the reason Sushma Swaraj -- the senior most Indian leader to visit Nepal after Narendra Modi became the prime minister -- didn’t meet them Saturday and apologized for it.
The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist is the second largest party in Nepal’s Constituent Assembly.
The Indian minister’s failure to meet the party Saturday -- when she met several others -- sparked a controversy in Nepal. The CPN-UML has two former prime ministers, Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal. Deputy Prime Minister Gautam is the home minister as well as the party’s acting head.
A scheduled meeting earlier between Sushma Swaraj and Gautam at a hotel didn’t take place although Gautam waited for an hour but the Indian leader didn’t show up, party leaders said.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told IANS earlier: “The meeting with Gautam could not take place due to miscommunication.”
Sushma Swaraj and CPN-UML leaders discussed during their almost hour-long meeting a wide range of issues including the signing of the Power Trade Agreement at the earliest.
Gautam said the Indian minister was told that Nepal was ready to sign a power pact with India “in the best interests of both countries to create a win-win situation” for both sides. The UML leaders called for mutual trust for lasting bilateral ties.
Before wrapping up her three-day Nepal visit, Sushma Swaraj termed it “productive” and “successful”.
“I am returning New Delhi with full satisfaction. My visit to Nepal was (more) successful than expected,” she said.
“We have signed a 26 point joint communique which will be instrumental in carving out a new roadmap of bilateral relationship.
“The agreement we reached Saturday will be implemented for the betterment of the two countries,” she said.
Sushma Swaraj also visited the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. “I am proud to be here, one of the most revered shrines for Hindus.”
Prime Minister Modi is to visit Nepal a week later. He will visit Nepal again later in the year to attend the SAARC Summit.