India and Nepal opened talks in Kathmandu on Sunday, hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived to a rousing welcome on a two-day visit tipped to deepen relations between the two close neighbours.
Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Sushil Koirala met for one-on-one discussions which a cabinet source said would cover a range of issues including bilateral and regional matters.
After their 30-minute meet, delegation level talks between the two countries began.
The two prime ministers signed three agreements, including a NRs 69 million grant to Nepal to supply iodated salt to curb iodine deficiency diseases.
Under the first agreement, India will provide a grant assistance worth NRs 69 million to supply iodated salt to curb goitre and other disease s related with iodine deficiency.
The second agreement was regarding the amendment of Articles 17 and 18 of the Pancheswor Multiple Project, the Himalayan Times reported.
The third agreement is about cooperation between Nepal Television and Doordarshan, the state-owned television stations of both the countries, it said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu on a ‘historic’ visit – the first bilateral trip to the Himalayan nation by an Indian head of government in over 17 years.
In a departure from protocol, Modi was welcomed at the airport by his Nepali counterpart Sushil Koirala. In 2006, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also accorded a similar welcome to Nepal Prime Minister GP Koirala when the later visited New Delhi.
Soon after arrival, the prime minister was accorded a guard of honour by the Nepali Army followed by a 19 gun salute.
After the brief ceremony Modi departed to Hotel Hyatt Residency, where he will be staying during his trip.
The Prime Minister is accompanied by a high level delegation including national security advisor Ajit Doval, foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and other senior bureaucrats.
“I look forward to working with the leadership of Nepal to forge a new relationship for the new century between our two rapidly transforming countries,” Modi said in a statement released on the eve of his visit.
The visit sees resumption of political dialogue at the highest level between the two neighbours and is expected to bridge the trust deficit that stemmed in the past 10 years due to so-called neglect of Nepal by the two UPA regimes.
“I hope my visit will open a new chapter in India-Nepal relations, characterised by more frequent political engagement and closer cooperation across the full spectrum of our extraordinarily broad based relations,” he added.
Nepal and India are expected to sign three memorandums of understanding (MoUs) during the trip. A power trade agreement and a power development agreement for the 900 MW Upper Karnali hydro-power project which were on the table aren’t likely to get inked.
“We are committed to continuing our support to Nepal in its development efforts,” the statement further added.
On Saturday afternoon Modi will have a meeting with his counterpart Koirala at Singha Darbar, the official seat of Nepal government. Bilateral talks between both sides will take place after that.
Modi will address to Nepal’s parliament around 4.25 pm – making him the first head of government from a foreign nation to address the Himalayan nation’s parliament since parliamentary democracy was restored in the country in 1990.
On Sunday morning, he will perform special prayers at Pashupatinath Temple. This will be followed by a meeting with President Ram Baran Yadav, who will host a lunch for Modi at Shital Niwas, the president’s official residence.
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)