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India, Nepal to speed up implementation of projects in Himalayan nation

File Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Oli Photo: APPremium
File Photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Oli Photo: AP

India and Nepal on Monday reviewed the status of various development projects supported by New Delhi in the Himalayan nation and decided to speed up their implementation against the backdrop of consistent efforts by China to draw Kathmandu into its sphere of influence with cheap loans and infrastructure projects

NEW DELHI: India and Nepal on Monday reviewed the status of various development projects supported by New Delhi in the Himalayan nation and decided to speed up their implementation against the backdrop of consistent efforts by China to draw Kathmandu into its sphere of influence with cheap loans and infrastructure projects.

The talks between Indian ambassador to Kathmandu, Vinay Kwatra, and Nepalese foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, followed Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli telephoning his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to greet him on India's 74th Independence Day on Saturday. The conversation between the two prime ministers was the first high-level contact since May when bilateral ties became stressed by Nepal issuing a new map showing several Indian territories as lying within Nepal’s boundaries.

Monday’s discussions between Kwatra and Bairagi were the 8th round of talks under the aegis of the India-Nepal Oversight Mechanism.

The two sides noted "the progress made in the development projects in the last one year, including reconstruction of 46,301 earthquake damaged houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, the operationalization of Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross border petroleum products pipeline, the Integrated Check Post at Biratnagar and the High Impact Community Development Projects," a statement from the Indian embassy in Kathmandu said. This was a reference to some projects inaugurated jointly by Modi and Oli in recent months.

Nepal also noted with appreciation covid-19 related assistance, including the supply of medical equipment by India, the statement said.

A statement from the Nepalese foreign ministry said the meeting discussed the status of implementation of several on-going projects – including the construction of roads in Nepa’s Terai region, cross-border railway connectivity, the Arun-III hydropower project and petroleum products pipelines.

"The meeting also discussed issues related with Pancheshwar multipurpose project, post-earthquake reconstruction, irrigation, power and transmission lines, construction of the Nepal Police Academy, integrated check posts (to promote India-Nepal trade), the Ramayana circuit for tourism, HICDPs (high impact community development projects), motorable bridges over the Mahakali River, agriculture and cultural heritage, among others," it said.

"Both sides underlined the need for expediting implementation of the bilateral projects. In that connection, they agreed to undertake necessary measures to timely address problems and obstacles in the course of implementation," it said.

The Nepal-India Oversight Mechanism was set up after Prime Minister Modi's visit to Nepal in September 2016 to oversee the implementation of bilateral projects and take necessary steps for their completion in time.Since Oli’s return to power in February 2018, India has taken steps to ensure quick execution and handover of development projects including a petroleum pipeline between the two countries. This has been with the aim of maintaining India’s position as a key development partner of Nepal as opposed to China.

During Oli’s first term in office, between October 2015 and August 2016, ties between India and Nepal were strained over Nepal’s new constitution which seemingly did not give the same political rights to the Tharus, Madhesis and Janjatis as the hill tribes. Oli crafted closer ties with Beijing much to India’s discomfiture.

In October, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited in a landmark trip that saw a broadening ties on all fronts – Beijing promising a trans-Himalayan railroad link and increased air connectivity besides $ 500 million in financial assistance.

In recent months, with infighting in Oli’s Nepal Communist Party (NCP) almost seen as toppling the prime minister, it was Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yangqi, who met all warring sides and brokered peace. It’s a far cry from days when India was seen as the influential power in the country, similarly calming ruffled feathers, say analysts.

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