New Delhi: In a bid to strengthen ties with Nepal, India plans to launch new bus services to the Himalayan nation from Bihar and Uttarakhand.

At present, buses connect New Delhi to Kathmandu and Pokhara, and Varanasi to Kathmandu.

With India and Nepal sharing a 1,850km border, the new bus services will enhance mobility between the two countries.

They come three years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first Kathmandu-New Delhi bus service during his Nepal visit on 25 November 2014.

A senior government official said on condition of anonymity, “Both countries have agreed on opening of the new routes. The modalities will be worked out once the new government in Nepal takes over."

The routes from the two states would be finalized after a cost-benefit analysis, and added that the bus services would be run by the respective state governments, this person said.

The expansion of bus services between India and Nepal would be under the India-Nepal Bilateral Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger Traffic, which was signed on 25 November 2014.

The agreement envisages regular bus services between the two countries as per agreed routes, trips and time-tables. It also simplifies the procedure for movement of private and non-regular vehicles across the India-Nepal border.

A road ministry official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the development.

“Proposals were received from many states in central and north India and after a mutual decision between the countries, Uttarakhand and Bihar have been shortlisted. The road ministry has extended its support and the matter will be taken forward by the external affairs ministry," the official said, but refused to share further details.

Queries emailed to the Nepal embassy remained unanswered.

C. Uday Bhaskar, director of think tank Society for Policy Studies, said connectivity was an important way to strengthen relations with neighbours.

The opening of new bus services though late was important and desirable.

India is undertaking several projects for better connectivity with Nepal. These include the construction of the Mechi river bridge, the Mirganj bridge (on National Highway 57A) and the Piprakothi-Raxaul road (National Highway 57A).

According to the road ministry, work on the Mechi river bridge project will start by February 2018, whereas award of the contract for the Piprakothi-Raxaul road will be done by the end of this month.

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