Kathmandu: Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will in February embark on his first foreign visit post-assumption of office to India, Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa said today, laying to rest speculations that the Communist leader would be touring China first instead of the southern neighbour.
"Prime Minister Oli is visiting India first," Mr Thapa, who is also deputy prime minister, said at an event in Kathmandu.
Traditionally, Nepali prime ministers have made it a point to visit India first following their assumption of office.
Only Maoist Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' rubbed India the wrong way when he chose China as the first destination of his foreign visit after taking over as Nepal's prime minister and attended the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Mr Thapa said preparations were underway in both countries regarding Mr Oli's visit.
Mr Thapa, who has already visited India twice in the past three months since the new government assumed office in the Himalayan nation, said Mr Oli will visit China after his India tour.
Amid hiccups in Nepal-India ties over the Madhesi issue, there was speculation in the Nepali media that Oli would pick China for his maiden foreign visit and "snub" a call from India.
According to diplomatic sources, Oli will visit India in the second or third week of February. The dates would be finalised soon.
Mr Thapa endeavoured to stress that the media should shed the mindset of harping on the prime minister's maiden visit.
"We have to shun such a mindset ... which nation the prime minister would visit first," Mr Thapa asserted.
He said it was "not good" to compare Nepal's "independent and sovereign" relations with India and China.
The Madhesis in Nepal's Terai region have been agitating for the past more than four months against discriminatory provisions of the country's new Constitution, which was promulgated four months ago. The unrest has led to blockading of the border entry points and held up supply of essential items from India souring bilateral relations.
Mr Oli had earlier blamed India for the prevailing situation and there was speculation that he might choose China for his first foreign visit.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had twice called Mr Oli and invited him to India.
"The prime minister (Oli) received invitation from India first," Mr Thapa said, and that was why he would visit India first.