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Indian Army Chief calls on Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba

KATHMANDU (PTI): Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande on Tuesday called on Nepal's Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on the third day of his official visit aimed at bolstering defence ties between the two neighbouring countries.

Gen Pande, who arrived at Kathmandu on Sunday on a five-day official visit, paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Deuba at his office at Singhadurbar on Tuesday. He was accompanied by Ambassador Naveen Srivastava and other delegation members, according to the Indian Embassy in Nepal.

He briefed Prime Minister Deuba on his engagements in Kathmandu and conveyed his personal gratitude for the warm hospitality extended by his government.

They discussed aspects of mutual interest and ways to further cement the ties between the two nations, the Indian Army said.

Gen Pande reaffirmed that he would work to further strengthen the defence cooperation between the two countries, according to Indian Embassy sources.

Earlier, Gen Pande visited Nepali Army Command and Staff College at Shivapuri and addressed the students and staff there.

"Gen Manoj Pande #COAS, visited Army Command & Staff College, Nepal and addressed the student officers & faculty on India's Security Perspectives'. COAS emphasised on strengthening & deepening the engagements for mutually building the competencies & capabilities of both Armies," the Indian Army tweeted.

Nepal's President Bidya Devi Bhandari conferred the title of honorary General of the Nepali Army to Gen Pande at a special ceremony in Kathmandu on Monday. Gen Pande was also presented a sword and scroll during the ceremony held at the President's official residence Shital Niwas' in Kathmandu.

"In honour of General Manoj Pande, General Prabhu Ram Sharma and Mrs Sunita Sharma hosted a banquet at Nepali Army HQs," the Nepali Army tweeted.

The issue of induction of Gorkhas from Nepal into the Indian Army under the Agnipath scheme is also likely to figure in Gen Pande's talks in Kathmandu, which reportedly conveyed to New Delhi that the recruitment under the new scheme does not conform to existing provisions for it.

Gen Pande is scheduled to visit the famous Muktinath temple located in Mustang district in northwest Nepal on September 7 and on the same day, he will also visit the Mid-Command Headquarters of the Nepali Army in Pokhara.

He will leave Kathmandu for New Delhi on September 8.

"The Nepali Army believes the exchange of such high-level visits and continuation of tradition helps in strengthening relations between the two militaries and the two countries," said a press release issued by Nepal Army on Sunday.

Archana Pande, the chairperson of the Army Wives Welfare Association of the Indian Army, is also accompanying Gen Pande.

Nepal is important for India in the context of its overall strategic interests in the region, and the leaders of the two countries have often noted the age-old "Roti Beti" relationship.

The country shares a border of over 1,850 km with five Indian states - Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Land-locked Nepal relies heavily on India for the transportation of goods and services.

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