India, Nepal agree to boost security, connectivity, trade ties
New Delhi, April 7 (IANS): After months of stress in ties, India and Nepal on Saturday agreed to crank-up cooperation in connectivity, trade, agriculture and border security as Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave an assurance that New Delhi remains committed to strengthening the partnership as per Nepal’s priorities.
Seeking to readjust the ties, Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, on a three-day visit to India, held wide-ranging talks with Modi, who also assured the visiting leader that India would always back Nepal in its quest for development.
A joint statement issued after the talks said Prime Minister Oli stated that his government attaches high importance to further strengthening friendly relations with India. He expressed the desire of the Government of Nepal to develop bilateral relations in a way so as to benefit from India’s progress and prosperity for economic transformation and development.
Oli, who has developed closer ties with China with a known pro-Beijing stance, said he has come to India “with a mission” to take bilateral ties based on “principles of equality and justice” to newer heights but “commensurate with the realities of the 21st Century”.
He said the two countries agreed to put on faster tracks all connectivity projects, announcing that a new railway line will be built “with India’s financial support” to connect the border city of Raxaul in India to Kathmandu in Nepal.
The objective, according to a joint statement, is to expand “connectivity” between the two neighbours and “enhance people-to-people linkages and promote economic growth and development”.
Prime Ministers Modi and Oli also recognised the untapped potential of inland waterways between the countries that can contribute in an overall economic development of the Himalayan region.
This will enable cost effective and efficient movement of cargo and greatly impact the growth of business and economy of Nepal.
The connectivity proposals are significant and come nearly two years after China in March 2016 agreed to construct a strategic railway link with Nepal through Tibet to reduce the Kathmandu’s total dependence on India.
That year 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 soaring 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.
China expanding its strategic base in Nepal sparked concerns in India that it was losing its foothold in its immediate backyard despite its “neighbourhood first” policy.
But Oli’s April 6-8 visit indicated a new India-Nepal bonhomie during which he and Modi announced enhanced security ties, particularly on borders to curb curb misuse of open boundaries between the two countries.
He said his country always accorded “great importance” to its ties with India as the two neighbours have many “things to offer each other”.
This is Oli’s first foriegn trip after returning to power for the second term in February.