New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday to attend the 18th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit.Modi, who arrived in a special Indian Air Force aircraft, is scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and witness the signing of a number of bilateral agreements with the Himalayan nation later in the day.He was given a guard of honour and a group of girls presented a cultural performance for him.
The PM is also likely to hold bilateral meetings with leaders of the member states of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (Saarc) on the sidelines of the summit.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday did not rule out an informal meeting between the Indian PM and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the summit.
A likely meeting between Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the summit has lent added interest to the meeting of the eight-member bloc.Prior to PM’s visit, Sushma Swaraj, when asked on Monday whether Modi and Sharif will have a bilateral meeting, only said “wait till tomorrow” while Pakistan’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz said there was no plan for such an interaction between the two leaders.
Aziz, however, said Pakistan will consider for a meeting between the two leaders if such an initiative comes from the Indian side.
“No plans yet,” Aziz told reporters when asked about a possible meeting between Modi and Sharif. Asked whether he was hopeful of a Modi-Sharif meeting, Aziz said “If the initiative comes from there (the Indian side).”
On Sunday, India did not rule out a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pak counterpart Mian Nawaz Sharif at the SAARC Summit, and said it was keen to have meaningful dialogues with as many south Asian leaders as possible.
External Affairs Mministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that India was in favour of cooperative and peaceful ties with Pakistan. “Prime Minister Modi is keen to have meaningful dialogues with as many south Asian colleagues as possible,” he said.
The statements by both sides did not clearly indicate whether the two Prime Ministers will meet on the sidelines of the 18th SAARC summit where there is a growing focus on Indo-Pak issues.
PM Modi will leave Tuesday afternoon for the summit in Kathmandu, being held November 26-27, and is scheduled to return Thursday late evening.
It will be PM Modi’s second meeting with nearly all the SAARC leaders, except for Afghanistan which has a new president in Ashraf Ghani.
PM Modi had invited the South Asian leaders for his swearing-in ceremony May 26 as part of his government’s outreach to the neighbourhood.
For Modi, it will be his second visit to Nepal. He had paid a stand-alone bilateral visit to Kathmandu in August, the first such by an Indian prime minister in 17 years.
Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will host a banquet for all the leaders that evening. On the following day, the leaders will hold a retreat session at Dhulikhel after which they will adopt the Kathmandu Declaration.
Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav will host dinner for all the leaders on the concluding day after which Modi returns.