Published: Sun, April 08, 2018

India, Nepal agree to boost security, connectivity, trade ties

India, Nepal agree to boost security, connectivity, trade ties

China expanding its strategic base in Nepal sparked concerns in India that it was losing its foothold in its immediate backyard despite its "neighbourhood first" policy.

The plan to develop inland waterways would give landlocked Nepal much-needed access to sea, boosting its exports. Areas for development include hydro-power generation plants, railways linking the 2 countries.

Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Suresh Prabhu and MoS Ministry of External Affairs General V.K. Singh were also present at the India Foundation conclave.

Gokhale insisted China's growing footprint in Nepal was not discussed as the talks were focused on the bilateral relationship with some reference to regional issues, with Oli flagging the stalled Saarc process and the BBIN (Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal) initiative for vehicular movement across the subcontinent.

Oli responded that he would like to call for further cooperation for his country's future development.

Oli, who had publicly criticised New Delhi for interfering in Nepal's internal matters and accused it of toppling his government, after his sweeping poll victory said his party would forge a partnership with India to move forward the country towards the path of economic prosperity.

Prime Minister Oli echoed the sentiments of his Indian counterpart and underscored the significance of the bilateral relationship.

Modi's tough message to Kathmandu - Oli's three-day visit starts Friday - will be couched in the niceties of diplomatic prose, but there will be no denying "India's red lines", a senior government official told The Indian Express.

But Foreign Secretary Gokhale said the circumstances in 2016 and current times were different, adding that the government of Nepal was elected on the basis of the Constitution. With the doklam face off and other border related issues still remaining unsolved with China, India needs to play strategically with its neighbor. Prime Minister Oli stated that after the landmark political transformation, his Government has given priority to economic transformation with the motto "Samriddha Nepal Sukhi Nepali".

Modi also said the two countries agreed on laying a new railway line to link Kathmandu with India.

Nepal is to host the summit of BIMSTEC countries-a bloc that groups together select countries from South and Southeast Asia, something India is keen to promote given that India-Pakistan tensions over cross border terrorism has seen another region grouping in South Asia-SAARC-flounder. They rest on principles of equality and justice.

There were indications that India was losing its leverage in Nepal and it became more apparent after the victory of the left alliance in the general elections following which Oli was sworn in as the prime minister. China's Three Gorges Corporation has been given a second dam project to build in Nepal, while India's GMR and SJVN will build two projects.

On security and open borders, Mr. Modi said: "We have strong relations when it comes to the aspect of security and are committed towards stopping misuse of our open borders". "I firmly believe and hope you all will agree that a peaceful and prosperous Nepal is in the larger interest of India as well as other neighbours".

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