External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today called on Nepal's President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and discussed ways to boost bilateral ties in sectors like infrastructure, energy and connectivity. Swaraj, who arrived here on a two-day visit to attend the 15th ministerial meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), met Deuba at his official residence in Baluwatar. This was the first meeting between the two leaders since Deuba took over from Maoist leader Prachanda as Nepal's prime minister in June in a power-sharing deal. Swaraj, who is one her sixth visit to Nepal, said the Indian government was looking forward to Deuba's five-day state visit to India, scheduled to take place from August 23. She later called on Bhandari and recalled the successful visit of the Nepalese president to India earlier this year, which "further strengthened our age old ties", according to a statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. "The two sides discussed ways to enhance cultural linkages and people-to-people contacts between our two countries," it said, adding they also discussed an expanded bilateral agenda reflecting the updated national priorities of Nepal. Cooperation in hydro power sector also came up for discussion.
Both sides agreed that there are immense possibilities for cooperation in the sectors of infrastructure, connectivity and energy, the statement added. Swaraj's visit to Nepal comes as India is pushing for a larger role for BIMSTEC, an international organisation involving a group of countries in South and South East Asia. The member countries of BIMSTEC are India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal. Earlier in the day, the BIMSTEC Secretary-level talks were held to discuss agenda for the ministerial meeting, which will take place tomorrow. The meeting, which was inaugurated by Deuba today, will deliberate on 14 different themes like trade, investment, transport and communication, energy, tourism, agriculture, counter-terrorism, poverty alleviation, public health, environment and natural disasters and climate change.
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