India, Nepal mend fences

PM Narendra Modi and his visiting Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba ramped up Indo-Nepal economic ties in the hydro-power generation

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba ramped up Indo-Nepal economic ties in the field of hydro-power generation and connectivity initiatives, even as the two nations reached a “general understanding” during talks that they need to address the pending border dispute between them in a “responsible manner” through dialogue and that “politicisation of such issues needs to be avoided”, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Saturday.

India cleared Nepal’s power export proposals, paving the way for a major boost in power export to India from Nepal, with both nations also releasing a joint vision statement on power cooperation. The use of the Indian RuPay card in Nepal was jointly launched by the two Prime Ministers which will “open new vistas for cooperation in financial connectivity, and is expected to facilitate bilateral tourist flows as well as further strengthen people-to-people linkages between India and Nepal”. PM Modi told his Nepalese counterpart that under India’s "Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav" (75th Independence Anniversary) celebrations, India would inaugurate 75 development projects in Nepal this year. The move is being seen as a major one to counter Chinese influence that has grown by leaps and bounds in the Himalayan nation in recent years.

Ties between India and its Himalayan neighbour had soured two years ago during the tenure of Nepal’s then Communist Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli after Nepal unveiled a new map that showed portions of territory in India’s Uttarakhand -- Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh -- as part of Nepal. New Delhi had objected to that move. But ties began looking up once again later that year.

PM Modi on Saturday said, “We also discussed today the issue of open borders of India and Nepal being misused by unwanted elements. We also stressed on maintaining close cooperation between our defence and security institutions.”

Both Prime Ministers “jointly inaugurated the 90 km long 132 KVDC Solu Corridor Transmission line and substation built under the Line of Credit extended by India at a cost of Rs 200 crore. Both sides agreed to expedite progress in the implementation of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project.

In a “historic milestone”, the first broad-gauge passenger railway service connecting India and Nepal in the Jayanagar-Kurtha section that has been built with grant assistance from India was flagged off by the two Prime Ministers”. This section is a 35 km-long cross border rail link from Jaynagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Nepal. Both leaders also reviewed progress in construction of 132 health facilities in Nepal, undertaken with the $50 million post-earthquake reconstruction grant.

PM Modi also thanked his Nepalese counterpart “for assuring Government of Nepal’s full support in resolving bottlenecks and facilitating the time-bound completion of all India-assisted projects, including the National Police Academy at Kavrepalanchowk, the Integrated Check Posts at Nepalgunj and Bhairahawa and the projects under the Ramayana circuit”.

Mr Deuba will visit PM Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi on Sunday, a city that “symbolises the deep religious and cultural links between the two countries”. He will be received by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath who will accompany him on that leg of the visit.

Welcoming the Nepalese PM in his inaugural remarks before the media after bilateral talks on Saturday, PM Modi said, “Deubaji is an old friend of India. This is his fifth visit to India as Prime Minister. Deubaji has played an important role in the development of India-Nepal relations. The friendship of India and Nepal, the relationships of our people, such an example is not seen anywhere else in the world. Our civilisation, our culture, the threads of our exchanges are connected since ancient times. We have been companions of each other's happiness and sorrows since time immemorial... Today, Deubaji and I had a fruitful conversation... We discussed different aspects of our cooperation, reviewed progress of various projects and also discussed the roadmap for the future. We both agreed that we must take full advantage of opportunities for cooperation in the power sector. Our Joint Vision Statement on Power Corporation will prove to be a blueprint for future collaboration. We emphasised the importance of progressing at a fast pace in Pancheshwar Project. This project will prove to be a game changer for the development of the region. We also agreed on the subject of more participation by Indian companies in Nepal's hydro power development plans. It is a matter of happiness that Nepal is exporting its surplus power to India. It will contribute well to the economic progress of Nepal. I am glad to inform that many more proposals to import power from Nepal are also being approved.”

A statement put out by New Delhi said, “Both leaders discussed the wide ranging and robust bilateral development partnership. They reviewed the progress in implementation of Indian projects in Nepal, including the cross-border rail-link projects connecting (a) Jayanagar-Kurtha-Bijalpur-Bardibas (b) Jogbani-Biratnagar (c) Raxaul-Kathmandu. In a historic milestone, the first broad-gauge passenger railway service connecting India and Nepal in the Jayanagar-Kurtha section was flagged off by the two Prime Ministers during the visit. The Jayanagar-Kurtha rail link has been built with grant assistance from the Government of India.”

The Joint Vision Statement mentioned that “Nepal invited Indian companies to invest in the development, construction and operation of viable renewable power projects, including in the Hydropower sector in Nepal, including storage-type projects, including through mutually beneficial partnerships”.

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