K P OliNepalese Prime Minister K P Oli will embark on a fence-mending visit to India next week, days after agitating Madhesis ended their crippling protests and blockade that had soured the bilateral ties.

A Cabinet meeting held here yesterday approved Oli’s maiden visit to India from February 19-23. Government spokesperson Sherdhan Rai told reporters that details of the premier’s visit, which is also his first overseas trip, were discussed during the meeting.

The members of the prime minister’s delegation are yet to be finalised, according to Minister for Information and Communication Sher Dhan Rai.

Indo-Nepal ties soured following the promulgation of the new Constitution on September 20 last year that sparked protests by Madhesis, largely of Indian-origin, who say the new charter leaves them politically marginalised.

Nepal accused India of imposing a blockade on key border trading points that triggered crippling shortages of fuel and vital supplies across the landlocked Himalayan nation. India
denied the charge, citing the security situation in Nepal as the reason for blockade.

Oli yesterday said he will not enter into any agreement with India during the trip that would hurt his country’s “sovereignty” and “self-respect”.

“I will make sure that Nepal’s sovereignty, independence, freedom, geographical integrity and self-respect will not bow down,” he had said.

Earlier, Oli said it would not be appropriate for him to visit New Delhi until the blockade of key trade points with India is lifted.

Talking about the six-month-long agitation by the Madhesis, Oli yesterday said the ‘impulsive decision’ taken by Madhes-centric parties to enforce blockade to pressurise
government on addressing their demands has ‘cost the country a fortune’.

More than 50 people were killed in clashes between police and Madhesis during the protests.

However, in an unexpected move, the blockade was lifted on February 8 after the United Democratic Madhesi Front called off their protest under pressure from upset traders.

It is learnt that the visit will focus on strengthening the bilateral relations rather than forging new agreements.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who was here on Tuesday for a day-long visit to express condolence on the demise of former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, met Prime Minister Oli and said that India was eager to welcome him and was making all necessary preparations for his visit.

Ambassador of Nepal to India Deep Kumar Upadhayay said Oli’s visit to India would focus on seeking India’s full acceptance of the country’s new Constitution.