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Modi’s commitment and candour win Nepal, Maoists’ hearts

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Maoists, once passionately anti-India, on Monday joined the Himalayan country’s chorus hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the visit widely tipped to take bilateral relations to new heights.

On the second and final day of the visit that has taken Nepal by storm, Modi prayed at the famed Pashupatinath temple, called on President Ram Baran Yadav and met Maoist leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, two men who played a key role in ousting the monarchy.

After delivering a major address in Nepal’s parliament on Sunday, Modi on Monday discussed ways to boost bilateral ties with President Yadav in the company of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. Further details of the 15-minute meeting were not available. It was followed by a vegetarian lunch that included Gujarati dishes.

It was left to the Maoist leaders to underscore what Modi had achieved in just 48 hours for India-Nepal relations. “A new chapter has begun between India and Nepal,” Prachanda told the media after meeting Modi. “Our talks were very fruitful and very historic. Modi supports the peace process.”  “We are really satisfied with the talks,” said another Maoist leader, Baburam Bhattarai,

Nepal’s Maoists have in the past been seen as anti-India and pro-China despite the support the Indian establishment extended to the fight against monarchy. Modi’s commitment for Nepal’s economic progress and candour as well as his gesture of getting off his car and meeting commoners on the streets, have won the Indian leader numerous fans in the country.

Political leaders, including those who regularly rake up anti-India sentiments, lauded him, particularly after he agreed to revisit the Nepal-India Friendship Treaty of 1950. The Maoists in particular have wanted the treaty as its exists to go.

Modi, the first Indian prime minister to make a bilateral visit to Nepal in 17 years, made banner headlines in newspapers here, with one saying that he had won hearts and another that his speech in parliament had left lawmakers spellbound.

Dailies gave wide coverage Monday to the Modi visit. The Kathmandu Post, Nepal's leading English daily, highlighted Modi's $1 billion offer of soft loan to Nepal.