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India supports united, prosperous and strong Nepal: Modi

By Shirish B Pradhan
May 11, 2018 23:12 IST
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said India supports a 'united, prosperous and strong' Nepal as he called for transforming the land-locked Himalayan nation into a land-and water-linked country.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed by his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli at a ceremonial reception in Kathmandu on Friday. Photograph: Press Information Bureau of India

Modi made the remarks at a joint press meet after a one-on-one meeting with his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli which was followed by marathon delegation-level talks during which the two sides had extensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship.

"India supports a united, prosperous and strong Nepal," Modi asserted after Oli in his remarks said that Nepal's desire is to create a strong relationship underpinned by mutual trust so that it is not affected by any 'occasional or intermittent differences that are natural between neighbours'.


Oli was apparently referring to the strain in bilateral ties after the adoption of a new Constitution by Nepal in 2015 that divided Nepal into seven provincial units and marginalised Madhesis, who are largely of Indian-origin and inhabitants of the Terai.

The move triggered a six-month-long agitation, from September 2015 to February 2016, during Oli's first tenure in which more than 50 people were killed. The agitation had also crippled the land-locked country's economy as supplies from India were blocked.

"Prime Minister Modi and I have just concluded bilateral talks on the entire gamut of our relationship in an atmosphere of warm and cordiality that characterises the deep friendship and understanding between our two countries," Oli said, adding that the two sides have agreed to address 'all matters' by September 19 -- Nepal's Constitution Day.

IMAGE: The two prime ministers after a one-on-one meeting. Photograph: @MEAPhotogallery/Flickr

"We reiterated our firm commitment to take our relations forward on the basis of equality, mutual trust, respect and benefit. Relations between neighbours are different from that of others. Neighbourhood constitutes top priority in our foreign policy," he said.

Prime Minister Modi responded by saying that this was his third visit to Nepal since assuming office in 2014 and it shows his government's 'deep commitment' to further strengthen ties with Nepal.

He called for transforming Nepal from a land-locked country to a water- and land- linked nation.

Modi also hailed the three successful polls in Nepal after the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2015.

"I am visiting Nepal at a very special time, when elections have been successfully conducted here at federal, provincial and local levels. India stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Nepal," Modi said.

Nepal conducted two-phased parliamentary and provincial assembly elections in November and December 2017. The country also held local elections in three phases last year.

Earlier, Modi assured Nepal that it is at the top of India's Neighbourhood First policy as he announced a Rs 100 crore package to develop Janakpur -- the sacred city for Hindus -- while invoking mythological links between the two countries.

Speaking at a civic reception by the Janakpur Sub-Metropolitan City at Barhabigha ground in Janakpur, Modi briefly spoke in Nepali and Maithili.

He began his address by chanting 'Jay Siya Ram' slogan three times.

In a speech that invoked mythological references and symbolism, Modi said he has come to Janakpur not as the prime minister but as the chief pilgrim, amid applause.

IMAGE: Modi inspects the Guard of Honour during the ceremonial reception in Kathmandu. Photograph: Press Information Bureau of India

Modi, who is on his third visit to Nepal since assuming office in 2014, read out a verse from Ramcharitmanas which says 'one cannot remain isolated from the suffering of a friend and a true friend always helps his friend in the time of suffering.'

"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," said Modi, whose voice appeared hoarse apparently due to his hectic campaign in Karnataka assembly elections.

Modi assured Nepal that it is at the top of India's Neighbourhood First policy. He announced a Rs 100 crore package for the development of Janakpur and its surrounding areas. The amount will be spent on different development projects forging collaboration between the central government and the local government of Province No. 2.

Janakpur is known as the birth place of Sita, the wife of Lord Rama.

Modi, who earlier with Oli jointly inaugurated a direct bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya -- the two sacred cities for Hindus, said he was happy to link Janakpur with Ramayan Circuit.

"This circuit will develop religious tourism. It also will strengthen connectivity between the two nations," Modi said.

He also announced that two other circuits will also be developed for the promotion of the areas related to Buddhism and Jain religion in both Nepal and India, which will be instrumental in generating employment for the youths.

Modi said Nepal and India can benefit if they cooperate and work together for the promotion of five Ts: Tradition, Trade, Tourism, Technology and Transport.

He underlined the need for linking Nepal and India through highway, I- way or Information, Railway, Trans way or electric connectivity, waterway and airway.

"Better connectivity leads to enhanced India-Nepal friendship. That is why topmost priority is being given to boosting connectivity," he said.

"We are also trying our best to connect Nepal with waterways so that Nepal will be able to export Nepali goods abroad. If done so Nepal will be able to reap benefits through international trade," Modi said.

He said his long cherished dream to visit Janakpur has now been fulfilled with the grace of Goddess Sita.

IMAGE: Modi at Janaki Mandir in Janakpur on Friday. Photograph: Press Information Bureau of India

Modi, who earlier offered special prayers at the famed 20th century Janaki temple, invoked mythological King Janak of Mithila and King Dashratha of Ayodhya and said they not only united Janakpur and Ayodhya but also united India and Nepal.

"Nepal and India relations were started during the rule of King Janak in Treta Yuga and the bondage built by Sita during the period is still strong. It is this bondage which attracts people from Rameswaram to Pashupatinath, people from Lumbini to Bodhgaya and I was also attracted with the same bondage," he said.

He said Nepal and India not only share border, aspirations, dreams and destination, but their happiness and challenge are also same.

"Nepal is the land of great sages like Yagyavalkya, Astavakra, Gargi, who used to debate on theology and social issues in the palace of King Janak," he said, adding that Nepal has become the centre of spiritualism and philosophy.

Janakpur is the land from where the message of women empowerment reverberates, Modi said, adding that this is also the land which Raja Janak served with utmost devotion and compassion.

Modi said the strides Nepal has made in strengthening its democratic fabric are commendable.

Nepal conducted two-phased parliamentary and provincial assembly elections in November and December 2017. The country also held local elections in three phases last year.

Modi said India will build a railway link between Raxaul in Bihar and Kathmandu to facilitate people-to-people contact and movement of goods.

He also thanked Oli and said the honour he received in Janakpur is for the entire people of India.

Nepalese Defence Minister Ishwor Pokharel welcomed Modi at the function. Modi was wearing a Maithili kurta gifted by Prime Minister Oli.

"Nepal and India are tied together by common culture, civilisation and history," Pokharel said.

He expressed the confidence that the people to people relations between the two countries are being nurtured on the basis of brotherhood and equality.

Mayor of Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City Lal Kishro Shah read out felicitation letter in honour of Modi. He also handed over the symbolic key of Janakpur to Modi and gifted the picture of Janaki Temple as a token of love to him.

Chief Minister of Province No. 2 Lal Babu Raut offered a huge garland weighing 121 kg to Modi on the occasion.

Welcoming Modi, Chief Minister Raut said the 'open borders between Nepal and India have been instrumental in connecting the peoples of the two countries'.

Oli also urged Modi to allow exchange of demonetised high-value Indian currency notes held by the country's banks and the general public at the earliest.

According to the Nepal's national bank, the Nepal Rashtra Bank (NRB), nearly 33.6 million Indian rupees in Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 banknotes are currently in the Nepali banking channel.

"I requested Modi ji to facilitate the exchange of demonetised currency notes held in the Nepali banking system and by general public, at the earliest," Oli said at a joint press meet after their bilateral talks.

Modi also paid courtesy calls on President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Vice-President Nanda Bahadur Pun after he was accorded a guard of honour by Nepal Army.

Modi called on Bhandari at the Sital Niwas -- the official residence of the President.

"The two leaders renewed their commitment to take our friendly relations to new heights," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

Before meeting the President, Modi called on Vice President Pun and discussed the issues of mutual interest.

"The two leaders had an engaging conversation on steps to intensify the ancient and brotherly relations between two countries," Kumar said.

Earlier, Modi was accorded the guard of honour at the VVIP lounge of the Sainik Manch, Tundikhel. Nepal Army offered a 19-gun salute to him.

The prime minister inspected the parade. National Anthem of both the countries, Sayaun Thunga Phoolka Hami and Jana Gana Mana, were played.

Later, Modi and Oli jointly laid the foundation stone of the 900-megawatt Arun III Hydroelectric Power Plant in Tumlingtar area in eastern Nepal through a remote system in Kathmandu.

The project is expected to bring in $1.5 billion foreign direct investment into Nepal and create jobs for thousands of people.

Investment Board Nepal recently granted the licence to Satluj Jala Vodyut Nigam Power Development Company, a subsidiary of Indian government-owned Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd, to generate power from the Arun-III Hydropower Project, nearly 500-km from Kathmandu.

The permit was granted in line with the decision of the 30th meeting of IBN's board of directors chaired by Prime Minister Oli on April 28, according to an IBN official.

Arun-III is the largest capacity project in the history of hydroelectricity that is scheduled to be constructed within the next five years.

Nepal is currently facing shortage of power and the production of hydropower from the project will mainly serve its domestic demands.

The Nepal government will receive benefits worth Nepali Rupees 348 billion from the project as royalty, income tax, customs tariff and free energy in the concession period of 25 years. The project will also provide 21.9 per cent or 197 megawatts of the generated energy free of cost to Nepal.

Last month, the compound wall of the Arun-III plant's office in Tumlingtar area was damaged in the explosion, weeks before its inauguration.

India had asked Nepal to investigate the explosion that caused minor damaged to the office. However, no one was injured in the blast.

Following the incident, security was stepped up in the area.

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
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