PM Modi to Visit Nepal To Strengthen India-Nepal Ties

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Speedy implementation of key India-assisted projects and building trust will be among the focus areas when Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Nepal on Friday, a visit reflective of attempts to bring back normalcy in Indo-Nepal ties after a spell of uneasiness.

Official sources said that during Modi’s two-day visit, India will seek to consolidate relationship with the new Nepalese government of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli who has returned to power riding on a spectacular electoral victory and now leads a stable dispensation after years of political instability.

The aim will also be to bring “substance” and “seriousness” in ties, a source said, while expressing the hope that “it will further build trust between the two neighbours”.

Asked whether India will press for amendment in Nepal’s Constitution as sought by Indian-origin Madhesi groups, the sources said leaders from the community have already come to power in a province and that India will be observing the developments there. The prime minister will also meet leaders of two Madhesi parties in Kathmandu.

India’s assessment is that the internal power dynamics in Nepal is stable and the two Left parties CPN (Maoist Centre) and CPN-UML in the ruling alliance will merge.

They said both sides will deliberate on implementation of the ambitious rail project to link Kathmandu with Raxaul in Bihar and connecting landlocked Nepal with river transport system with India, apart from several other key connectivity projects.

India had offered these mega projects during Oli’s visit here last month, seen as a move to counter China’s efforts to expand influence over Kathmandu by offering various infrastructure projects.

Nepalese PM Oli had visited India around a month back which was seen as an attempt to repair Nepal’s ties with New Delhi. In 2016, Oli had publicly criticised India for interfering in Nepal’s internal matters and accused it of toppling his government.

The intention is to build on PM Oli’s visit and and carry forward pending proposals, a source said adding India hopes for greater political coordination and removal of various hurdles like land acquisition for implementation of key projects as a stable government is at the helm of affairs in Kathmandu now.

They said Modi will arrive in Janakpur on Friday by a chopper from Bihar. The Prime Minister will visit the historic Janakpur temple where he will be accompanied by his Nepalese counterpart.

Modi will be given a civic reception also at Janakpur. In the afternoon, he will travel to Kathmandu where he will meet the Nepalese President, Vice President and hold wide-ranging talks with Oli.

Modi and Oli are likely to sign a number of pacts and inaugurate the Rs 6000-crore Arun 3 project which is expected to generate around 900 MW of power.

The sources said there may be an announcement on the proposed Ramayan circuit.

In Kathmandu, Modi will also meet former Nepalse prime ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, besides the leaders of two Madhesi parties.

Modi will also travel to the famous Muktinath temple on Saturday and return to Kathmandu in the afternoon. He will also be given a civic reception by mayor of Kathmandu.

Sources said the focus of Modi’s trip — his third to Nepal after taking over reins as PM in 2014 — will be to further build on Oli’s visit here last month and implement pending proposals.

Modi will probably be the first Indian prime minister to visit Nepal thrice. Also, Nepal will be the first South Asian country where the PM would be visiting thrice, the sources said.

They said both sides are looking at finalising a pact on carrying out survey for the Kathmandu-Raxaul rail project and start negotiations for amending the treaty of transit for implementing the inland water transport project.

Certain changes in the existing pact are required for opening up the inland waterways between the two countries.

The sources said the Indian entity for carrying out the survey for the tail project has been identified and that the aim was to complete the survey later this year or by first part of next year.

Asked about China’s recent proposal to build a corridor to Nepal also linking India, the sources said the issue was not discussed during Modi’s talks with Chinese President Xi Jingpin in Wuhan recently and that India was focusing on bilateral connectivity projects with Nepal.

On whether India has reservations on engaging in power trade with Nepal if the project involves China, the sources said India is in the process of changing rules for cross border power trade.

It is not specific to China, the sources said, adding it will be applicable for Bhutan as well as Bangladesh. They said “it is not that India will not take power because China’s involvement”.

The intergovernmental trade and transit commission and the joint steering committee on power sharing met last month to prepare the ground for Modi’s trip to Kathmandu.

During Oli’s visit, both sides had vowed to step up the overall engagement and take the relationship to newer heights on the basis of “equality, mutual trust and respect”.

After talks with Oli last month, Modi had said India would always stand by Nepal in its quest for all-round growth, asserting that deeper cooperation between the two neighbours would strengthen democracy in that country.

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