Nepali Congress chief leaves for India

Kathmandu, Aug 4 (IANS) Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala Sunday left for India on a six-day visit - his first after taking over the party in September 2010, a party leader said.

Koirala is accompanied by two secretary generals - Prakash Man Singh and Krishna Prasad Sitaula - of the party, which traditionally has had a good rapport and relation with Indian establishment and political parties. The trip follows an official invitation by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"This is a political visit focused on improving Nepal-India ties and also party-to-party relations," Sitaula told IANS before embarking to New Delhi.

The visit is expected to strengthen ties between Nepali Congress and the Indian establishment and political parties, he added.

Unlike three former prime ministers of Nepal - Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Madhav Kumar Nepal - who had recently visited India, Koirala will not be addressing any think tank meet in Delhi. He will travel to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and meet the chief ministers.

According to itinerary published by India's external affairs ministry, Koirala will meet newly- appointed Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh Monday and the delegation will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Koirala and his delegation will meet Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid at Hyderabad House and later will meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. He will also meet Bharatiya Janata Party's Sushma Swaraj, who is leader of opposition in Lok Sabha.

Koirala will travel to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where he will meet the Chief Ministers, Akhilesh Yadav and Nitish Kumar respectively, and discuss bilateral issues like the boundary, flood, inundation, energy exchange and people to people contacts.

India has been saying these visits are part of its policy to expand talks and consultations with the Nepali political parties to strengthen bilateral ties.

Also, at a time Nepal is embarking for second Constituent Assembly polls in Nov 19, these visits would give the Indian leadership an assessment of the ground realities in its Himalayan neighbour, links with which India attaches great importance.

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