In first virtual meet after border row, India-Nepal decide to accelerate bilateral projects
India and Nepal on Monday agreed to speed up work on bilateral projects, including infrastructure schemes and cross-border rail links, as senior officials of the two sides held a meeting for the first time since a border row strained ties.
The meeting of the India-Nepal oversight mechanism was held in Kathmandu via video conference two days after a phone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli, which people familiar with developments said had helped to clear the air between the two sides.
This was the eighth meeting of the mechanism, set up in 2016 to monitor the progress of India-funded projects, and it carried out a comprehensive review of economic and development cooperation schemes since the last meeting in July 2019.
“Both sides deliberated on the issues and agreed to expedite their implementations,” said a statement from the Indian embassy in Kathmandu.
A statement from Nepal’s foreign ministry added: “Both sides underlined the need for the expeditious 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.”
The meeting, co-chaired by Indian ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra and Nepal’s foreign secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, was attended by representatives of ministries and departments of the Nepal government and consultants and contractors engaged in implementing the projects.
Kwatra and Bairagi noted the progress in development projects over the past year, including reconstruction of 46,301 earthquake-affected houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, operationalisation of the Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross-border petroleum products pipeline, opening of an integrated check post at Biratnagar and high impact community development projects.
India has committed to rebuild 50,000 houses damaged by the devastating earthquake of April 2015.
The statement from the Nepalese side said the meeting discussed the status of several key projects such as the terai roads, cross-border railways, Arun-III hydropower project, Pancheshwar multipurpose project, irrigation projects, power and transmission lines, construction of the Nepal Police Academy, Ramayana circuit, motorable bridges over Mahakali river, agriculture and cultural heritage.
Nepal also appreciated the Covid-19-related assistance from India, including the supply of medicines and medical equipment.
In May, Nepal objected to the opening of a new road by India to Lipulekh region on the border with Tibet. Nepal responded by issuing a new map that showed Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura, all controlled by India, as part of Nepalese territory, exacerbating the border row.
Some experts have highlighted the need for India to improve ties with Nepal at a time when it is engaged in a border standoff with China. But former ambassador Neelam Deo, director of Mumbai-based foreign policy think tank Gateway House, said the India-Nepal relationship is important regardless of other factors.
“It is as important as our relations with Bangladesh and Bhutan, even with all the difficulties. Its importance can’t be overstated. Whether things will now improve is contingent on Prime Minister Oli’s political fortunes. Obviously, there are people within the Nepal government who want a more balanced situation and who don’t want a break in ties with India, and they are pushing back,” Deo said.
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