It was the first speech in Nepal’s parliament by head of the government of a foreign country since the Himalayan nation became a parliamentary democracy in 1990. And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the most of it on Sunday.
Starting his speech in Nepali for a few minutes, the Prime Minister switched later to Hindi and touched on almost all topics related to relations between the neighbours during his 45-minute address.
“I had come to Nepal as a pilgrim many years ago. I consider myself very lucky to have returned to this beautiful country as India’s prime minister,” he spoke in Nepali to a rousing applause.
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He announced NRs 10,000 crore as concessional line of credit to Nepal and proposed a HIT formula for the development of the land-locked country endowed with rich hydropower potential.
"India has decided to provide Nepal with NRs 10,000 crore ( $1 billion) as concessional line of credit for various development purposes."
"This amount is separate from the previous assistance that India has already provided to Nepal," Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the country in 17 years, said.
In an attempt to assuage sentiments, Modi spoke of Nepal as the birthplace of Lord Buddha. He also touched upon the contributions made by Nepali soldiers in the wars fought by India since independence.
“Our relations are as old as Himalayas and Ganga and therefore our relationship isn’t based on documents but through hearts of our people,” Modi stated.
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At a time when Nepal is in process of writing its constitution and a debate is underway on what shape it should take, Modi made it clear that India supports a statute that is federal, democratic and republican in structure.
“I am sure Nepal’s constitution will show the world that transformation can be achieved by leaving ‘shastra’ (weapons) and adopting ‘saashtra’ (scriptures),” he stated.
Trying to allay fears of India’s interference in Nepal’s affairs, Modi stressed that Nepal is a sovereign country and is free to make its own choices and India can only offer support when sought.
The Prime Minister said he wanted to help Nepal with HIT — highways, information technology and transmission lines for electricity.
"It came to my mind that let's hit Nepal. Many of you would take offence to my use of this term but when I talk of hitting Nepal, I have three main points in mind -- H:Highways, I:I-ways and T:Transways," Modi said.
Kathmandu (Nepal): PM Narendra Modi meets Nepal PM Sushil Koirala pic.twitter.com/X3L3RpkqRg
He added India will help Nepal in constructing highways for better connectivity. It will provide assistance to the country for developing information highways so that "Nepal should not be left behind among the nations of the world. Nepal too has to catch up with the digital age and it has to be connected to the world at large".
“I want to move with you at same pace but it is for Nepal’s leadership to decide what course it wants to take,” he said.
Modi also assured of increasing scholarships to Nepali students and doubling the electricity India exports to Nepal to tide over its power crisis.
(with agency inputs)