Eye on China, India pushes rail links with Nepal

Casey Dawson
April 8, 2018

The 135-day blockade from September 20, 2015, at the Raxaul-Birgunj check post - which accounts for about 70 per cent of supplies to Nepal from India - had soured bilateral relations, already strained by the big brother attitude India showed earlier in the year by making a big display of its relief work during the Nepal quake.

Nepal is to host the summit of BIMSTEC countries-a bloc that groups together select countries from South and Southeast Asia, something India is keen to promote given that India-Pakistan tensions over cross border terrorism has seen another region grouping in South Asia-SAARC-flounder.

The Nepal-China agreements came at a time when Kathmandu-New Delhi ties started soaring after a border blockade in 2015-16.

Oli lauded India's timely assistance in the financial and infrastructural development of Nepal. "Nepal will not only be "land-linked" but "water-linked" also", Modi said in his media statement. The two countries have recently also signed a transit treaty.

It is likely that India will buy a large chunk of the power that is produced by the Arun III project, being built by the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), a public sector undertaking, much on the lines of its hydro cooperation model with Bhutan.

He said, India would like to improve waterways and rail connectivity.

Densing: Boracay businesses may lose P20-B due to closure
The island generates 20% of the country's tourism industry revenue, according to Aljazeera . The government this week estimated the closure could shave 0.1% off 2018 GDP.

So when Modi and Oli push a button in New Delhi, that virtually lays the foundation stone of the $1.5 billion, 900 MW Arun III hydro-electric project in the Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal, the Prime Minister's message of cooperation with Nepal will have a strategic caveat to it. "Today, we have reviewed the progress in various such connectivity projects and agreed to expedite their implementation", PM Modi said.

In his comments, Oli mentioned about the enormous impact this additional connectivity would have on the growth of business and economy of Nepal. The Nepalese prime minister further said that his country wishes to walk together with both of its big neighbours.

Gokhale insisted China's growing footprint in Nepal was not discussed as the talks were focused on the bilateral relationship with some reference to regional issues, with Oli flagging the stalled Saarc process and the BBIN (Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal) initiative for vehicular movement across the subcontinent.

Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Sharma OlSaturday called on the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

"We have strong relations when it comes to the aspect of security and are committed towards stopping misuse of our open borders", said Modi, with Oli by his side.

This was the first bilateral visit of Oli to India after taking over as Nepal's PM for the second time. They (India and China) are more developed and advanced than us. "Neighbourhood realities make peaceful coexistence, based on the principles of equality, justice, mutual respect and benefits a necessity for shared destiny", Oli said in the statement in presence of Modi. Alongside these projects, they will also bring into discussion the issues related to trade deficit and would stress on India to complete previously made infrastructure projects with many of them limping along for decades.

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