New Delhi:In what will help improve India’s connectivity with Nepal, the neighbours inked an agreement for the construction of a bridge over the river Mechi.
The memorandum of understanding on cost-sharing, schedules and safeguard issues for the Indian government-funded project—on Asian Highway 2—was among eight agreements signed between the two countries on Thursday.
The Asian Highway network is also referred to as the Great Asian Highway, and is a 141,000km road network connecting 32 Asian countries. It starts from Tokyo in Japan and connects South Korea, China, Hong Kong, South-East Asia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to the border between Turkey and Bulgaria, west of Istanbul, where it joins with European route E80.
The agreements ranging from post-earthquake reconstruction packages to curbing drug trafficking were signed by the two governments during the first visit of Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
After the 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal’s Kathmandu valley in April 2015, India has been helping its neighbour with reconstruction.
While the two neighbours have been underlining their special relationship, of late these ties have been fraying on account of Nepal cultivating links with China to balance those with India.
Experts say that Deuba’s visit presents an opportunity for India to project that it can become the economic driver for the region.
“While it is important for Nepal to not be seen as tilting against India, it is also very important for India to not push them into making that choice," said Alka Acharya, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Deuba also jointly inaugurated the Kataiya-Kusaha and Raxaul-Parwanipur cross-border power transmission lines, according to news agency PTI.
India has been supplying electricity to Nepal with the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) signing a framework agreement on electricity trade at its Kathmandu summit in November 2014.
“Had a positive meeting reviewing the gamut of our partnership," Modi said at a joint press event with Deuba and assured the latter of India’s commitment towards overall growth and development of the Himalayan nation, PTI reported.
Deuba, on his part, said Nepal would “never allow any anti-India activities from its soil," according to the report.
Nepal’s agreements with India follows its energy pacts with China earlier this month during the visit of Chinese vice-premier Wang Yang.
“It is a very important and delicate exercise from all sides. It’s best to build a substantial partnership and our own connectivity," added Acharya.
Mint reported on 6 July that India is working on a slew of road and bridge projects including Mechi to improve connectivity with Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.
The Mechi bridge is part of the Asian Development Bank’s South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) road connectivity programme, with India pulling out all stops to expedite it in the backdrop of China’s ambitious ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative aimed at connecting around 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Europe.