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Bhattarai to visit India later this month

Kathmandu: Nepal`s Premier Baburam Bhattarai is set to undertake a crucial visit to India, his first to the country since assuming the top post over a month ago, and is expected to discuss issues relating to a bilateral peace and friendship treaty, economic cooperation and the Constitution- drafting process here.

The visit has been tentatively fixed to start from October 21 and will last for 4-5 days, sources close to the Prime Minister said.

The India trip of Bhattarai, the second Vice-chairman of UCPN-Maoist, will be significant as it comes at a time when he is facing protests from hardliners within his party, who are opposing the 4-point deal inked with the Joint Madhesi Front while forming the coalition government and handing over of keys of the arms container to an all-party Special Committee.

It is also crucial for Bhattarai to secure support from the opposition parties, including the Nepali Congress, for his efforts to conclude the peace process and promulgate a new Constitution.

During the high-level talks in New Delhi, Bhattarai is expected to discuss with the Indian leadership the ongoing peace process, integration of Maoist army with the Nepal Army, drafting of the Constitution, Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, bilateral relations and economic cooperation.

Unlike Maoist chief Prachanda, who chose to visit China before going to India after becoming Prime Minister, Bhattarai, a scholar from JNU, has preferred to visit New Delhi first.

Bhattarai had also held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his recent visit to New York to attend the 66th General Assembly of the United Nations.

The Nepalese Prime Minister has promised to conclude the peace process, including integration of Maoist combatants with the army and preparation of a draft Constitution, by November end, when the twice-extended tenure of the Constituent Assembly expires.

Bhattarai is also expected to visit China after he returns from India as he has already received an invitation from Beijing.

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