PM Modi says Nepal comes first in India’s Neighbourhood First policy, announces ₹100 crore grant
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced a ₹100-crore package to develop the holy city of Janakpur in Nepal, and said the country is at the top of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.
Modi held extensive discussions with his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli and senior officials as part of efforts to reset bilateral ties, and the two sides reached a broad understanding on key issues ranging from cross-border connectivity to joint control of flooding along the frontier, officials said.
Meeting Oli twice within the space of one-and-a-half months, Modi assured that all genuine grievances of Nepal will be addressed in a time-bound manned.
“India supports a united, prosperous and strong Nepal,” Modi said during a joint media interaction after Oli said Kathmandu wants a strong relationship underpinned by mutual trust that is not affected by “occasional or intermittent differences”.
However, the Indian side was silent on Nepal’s call to allow the exchange of demonetised Indian currency notes worth almost ₹33.6 million held by the country’s banks and the public at the earliest, as well as a request to add four air routes via India.
Modi, on his third visit to Nepal since assuming office in 2014, and Oli flagged off a bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya, two holy sites for Hindus. The service is part of the Ramayana Circuit to promote religious tourism.
Announcing the ₹100-crore package, Modi said authorities in Nepal will select and implement development projects. Oli and Modi also jointly laid the foundation stone for the 900-MW Arun III hydropower project remotely from Kathmandu.
“Whenever there has been a problem, India and Nepal have stood together. We have been there for each other in the most difficult of times,” Modi said at a civic reception hosted by the Janakpur sub-metropolitan city.
Later, Modi and Oli held one-on-one and delegation-level talks, during which the two sides agreed to resolve outstanding issues before September 19, which marks Nepal’s Constitution Day, officials said.
India said it is ready to partner with Nepal for cross-border connectivity and agreed to conduct a survey to link Kathmandu with the Indian rail network. A team of India experts will also conduct a feasibility survey for inland water navigation from Nepal to India.
“We are connected with Nepal through rail, water, (power) transmission line, petroleum pipeline,” Modi said during the joint media interaction.
Modi also announced the gift of radiotherapy equipment for a Bhaktapur-based cancer hospital. Both sides also agreed to form a joint technical team to resolve the recurrent problem of flooding along the border.
Both prime ministers agreed to expand cooperation in agriculture. The agriculture ministers of both sides will meet soon and frame a roadmap on agricultural research and development, education and organic farming.
Modi and Oli agreed to convene an early meeting to take forward the construction of the 5,000-MW Pancheshwar multipurpose project.
While noting that Nepal’s recent elections and their outcome will be written in golden words in the country’s history, Modi said the bilateral ties are special and that he was visiting at “a special time”. He said, “India stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Nepal. India-Nepal ties are above inter-governmental relations. It is more like a family.”
Modi added, “We have evaluated the partnership between Nepal and India. Some projects have made progress and some are in the process of achieving good progress. We have agreed to comprehensively review the trade and transit treaty.”
On his arrival, Modi was presented a guard of honor at a ceremonial function at the Nepal Army Pavilion. The army also offered him a 21-gun salute.