As PM Modi heads to Nepal, India looks to bring back momentum into ties
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will jointly inaugurate the 900-MW Arun III power project with his Nepalese counterpart, announce special assistance for Janakpur (birthplace of Sita as per Ramayana), and oversee the sides drawing timelines for implementing projects during his two-day visit to Nepal on May 11 and 12, persons familiar with the planning said.
The Arun III power project is a hydroelectric project on river Arun, with an estimated cost of Rs 5,800 crore.
On this third visit to Nepal as Prime Minister, Modi will be accorded two civic receptions — at his port of call in Janakpuri and at Muktinath — and a ceremonial reception in Kathmandu. He will meet former Nepalese PMs Sher Bahadur Deuba and Prachanda as well as Madhesi leaders as the two countries try to bring back momentum into their ties.
But a source admitted that the discussion on India taking back the demonetised notes from Nepal remains inconclusive. Indian currency is used in Nepal and India is the largest trading partner of the Himalayan country. The countries have yet to agree on how to exchange the banned bills of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 held by individuals and informal sectors in Nepal, an amount estimated to be Rs 9.5 billion. India has yet to confirm the authenticity of some of those bills.
Speeding up agreed projects according to stricter timelines would be a key area of focus during the visit. These include transmission lines, and integrated check posts and railway lines.
A source, who did not wish to be named, said that the two sides are aiming to step up cooperation in three areas — rail connectivity between Raxaul in Bihar and Kathmandu in Nepal, inland waterways, and agriculture cooperation — that were agreed upon when Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli visited India in April.
The two sides are soon expected to do a feasibility study by the East Central Railway for the rail link between the countries.
The source cited above said that the two sides are also looking to amend the bilateral trade and transit agreement to include inland waterways, which is not included in the existing pact.
“Prime Minister Modi making a return trip so soon after Prime Minister Oli’s visit to India shows the importance he attaches to the ties,” said a source.
Modi will arrive in Janakpur on May 11, where he is likely to announce special assistance to the city, which features prominently in the Indian government’s plan to promote the Ramayana circuit. Modi will be given a ceremonial reception at Kathmandu that afternoon and hold discussions with Oli. The next day, Modi will visit the temple town of Muktinath.