Modi returns to Nepal riding on 'engine of trust'

  • Prashant Jha, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Nov 26, 2014 01:12 IST

Less than 100 days after his first visit to Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was back in the country for SAARC. But the first day of his visit was devoted to ties with Nepal , where Modi outlined the substantial bilateral achievements in this period and witnessed the signing of a slew of agreements between Delhi and Kathmandu.

At the core of it, the PM said at an event to inaugurate an India-supported trauma centre, was the 'engine of trust'. "We have seen that if there is trust, there is faith, then work that had been blocked for 25-30 years can suddenly happen at one go."

And he enumerated the progress. Hydropower has long been an area clouded by suspicion even as both sides recognise that Nepal had enormous resources and India was the natural source of capital and market. Modi pointed to the signing of an umbrella Power Trading Agreement, a Power Development Agreement (PDA) for the 900 MW Upper Karnali project, and the constitution of the Pancheshwor Development Authority in the past three months. Later in the evening, the Nepal Investment Board and Sutley Jal Vidyut Nigam signed a PDA for another 900 MW project, Arun 3. The PM added work was underway to build a new transmission line with 1000 MW capacity which would 'light up Nepal', which currently suffers acute power shortages. A power trade committee between the two sides has also decided to commence the supply of an additional 70 MW to Nepal.

Modi had announced a Line of Credit of NRS 10,000 crore (USD 1 billion) and a final agreement with details was sealed on Tuesday evening. This would be used for hydropower, irrigation, infrastructure and be provided at 1 percent concessional rate

To enable greater connectivity, Modi announced - and the two countries later signed - a Motor Vehicles Agreement. This included a Kathmandu-Delhi bus service, named Pashupati Expressway, which was flagged off the by Modi and his counterpart Sushil Koirala. Modi said he had asked his officials to make this wifi enabled to draw tourists. A Kathmandu-Banaras and Pokhara-Delhi service are on the anvil.

During his visit in August, Modi had flagged the issue of high call rates from India to Nepal and vice versa, causing difficulties to Nepalis working in India as well as citizens with relatives in each other's countries. Modi said on Tuesday his enquiries had revealed that Indian companies charge only 40 paisa - and he had asked them to cut rates by 35 percent on that nominal fee too. He appealed to Nepal telecom providers to do their bit and reduce charges now.

On the theme of making life easier for citizens, Modi announced that people would now be allowed to carry INR 500 and 1000 notes from India to Nepal uptil a limit of Rs 25,000. It was due to Indian concern on fake currency that these notes were not allowed. The decision, Modi hoped, would help workers as well as tourists.

There has long been concern over delay in India-supported infrastructure projects, especially the Tarai road close to the border. Modi said within six months, there would be progress on border infrastructure and he had asked that certain contracts be cancelled.

The two countries also signed an agreement whereby India would help with building the Nepal Police Academy in Kathmandu's outskirts. This will be at the cost of Rs 550 crores and will train 410 officers.

Cities were twinned, with Kathmandu and Varanasi, Lumbini and Gaya and Janakpur and Ayodhya being declared sister cities. MOUs were also signed on traditional medicine, youth exchange and tourism.

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