After a three-day diplomatic visit to India, Nepal prime minister KP Oli termed the tour "significant and fruitful", saying it helped clear misunderstandings and mistrust between the two nations, and strengthened mutual trust.
Accompanied by his wife Radhika Shakya and a 54-member high-level delegation to India, Oli arrived in New Delhi on 6 April, and was received by Union Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh. Oli’s visit was in line with the long-standing tradition tradition of a Nepalese premier visiting India on his first overseas trip.
"My official visit to India was significant and fruitful," Oli said upon his arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. The visit has further strengthened bilateral relations between Nepal and India, Oli told reporters. "The bilateral relations will move forward in a new direction on the basis of equality and mutual interest. We have agreed to expedite past agreements and understandings reached between the two countries," he said.
After the talks, the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi also released a statement on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying India values Nepal as a neighbour and sought to meet diplomatically again in the future.
"I have assured (Oli) that India will continue to cooperate with them in their efforts of Nepal's economic development and prosperity. As always, this cooperation in the future also will be based on the priorities and requirements set by the Government of Nepal," Modi said.
The trip comes amid a hitch in bilateral ties after Oli had to step down as Nepal prime minister in 2016 following a blockade on the India-Nepal border. Many in the Himalayan nation continue to blame India for the blockade that crippled the economy of the landlocked country. The ties were further strained after Nepal decided to join China's One Belt One Road policy amid India's concerns that the Chinese initiative would harm its strategic and economic interests.
Although the delegation-level talks touched upon various sectors of the two countries' economies, reports said the issue of improving China-Nepal ties was not discussed.
Oli and his wife were accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, and were received personally by President Ram Nath Kovind and Modi.
Cementing a unique relationship of friendship! Prime Minister of Nepal, Rt. Hon’ble K.P. Sharma Oli was accorded a ceremonial welcome @rashtrapatibhvn. PM @narendramodi received PM Oli on his first State visit since his election. pic.twitter.com/lWSFLVwQPE
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) April 7, 2018
Strengthening the special and people-centric partnership based on histotical and cultural context. PM @narendramodi warmly welcomes Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma Oli at Hyderabad House for delegation level talks continuing the long-standing tradition of high-level visits. pic.twitter.com/ZX2EsBKrz8 — Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) April 7, 2018
"No other countries in the world have the bonds of friendship and cooperation that exist between India and Nepal. Regular exchanges of visits at the highest political level demonstrate the priority that we attach to our special partnership," Kovind said on Twitter shortly after the meeting.
"India’s abiding interest is in the stability and economic prosperity of Nepal. India stands ready to expand cooperation with Nepal as per Nepal’s priorities," the president added.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, along with former prime minister Manmohan Singh also met Oli and other senior government officials in New Delhi.
Last evening I met Prime Minister of Nepal, Shri Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli. We discussed a wide range of issues concerning our two countries. pic.twitter.com/X5LSg6b50Z
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) April 7, 2018
Raxaul-Kathmandu railway line
During the diplomatic dialogue, the two countries agreed to conduct "feasibility studies" regarding construction of a Raxaul-Kathmandu railway line and operating Nepalese steamers to transport goods and people from Nepal to other countries. An official statement said the the two prime ministers agreed to construct the new electrified rail line, "with India's financial support", connecting the border city of Raxaul in India to Nepal's capital.
The proposal is politically significant, and comes nearly two years after China agreed to construct a strategic railway link with Nepal through Tibet to reduce Kathmandu's total dependence on India. In 2016, China also signed a transit trade treaty with Nepal that completely depends on Indian sea ports for third-country trade. Apart from this, China is also building three highways connecting Nepal and these roads are expected to be ready by 2020.
The Nepal-China agreements came at a time when Kathmandu-New Delhi ties started to sour after a border blockade in 2015-16. Many in Kathmandu blamed India for the 135-day blockade from September 2015 to February 2016 that crippled Nepal's economy. The agreement on the proposed Raxaul-Kathmandu railway link indicates a new India-Nepal bonhomie, experts say.
Oli assured that "Nepal will extend full cooperation for early completion of the requisite surveys for the new rail line".
However, this is not the first railway project the two neighbours have agreed on. Construction of railway lines from Jayanagar to Janakpur and from Jogbani to Biratnagar are already underway, whicle three other railway projects remain in the pipeline: New Jalpaiguri-Kakarbhitta, Nautanwa-Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj Road-Nepalgunj.
Agriculture, hydropower projects
The two prime ministers recognised the untapped potential of inland waterways running between the two countries that can contribute in an overall economic development of the Himalayan region.
Towards that, an official statement said that a "landmark decision" was undertaken to develop the inland waterways for the movement of cargo, within the framework of trade and transit arrangements, providing additional access to sea for Nepal.
This is likely to enable cost-effective and efficient movement of cargo, and greatly impact the growth of business and economy of Nepal.
"An important result of our commitment to our bilateral cooperation is the decision of cooperation in inland waterways. With our assistance, Nepal will get an extra connectivity to the sea. And the country of Everest will be able to connect directly to the ocean. I believe that this is a historical beginning. Nepal will not only be land-linked, but water-linked also," Modi said in his statement.
Boosting ties further, India also agreed to conduct a pilot project on organic farming and soil health monitoring in Nepal to help the natural resource-rich neighbour in developing agriculture and allied sectors. "Agriculture is one of the areas where India has made significant progress and Nepal could learn from it," Oli said.
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Apr 09, 2018 13:21:12 IST