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Diplomacy

Narendra Modi vows to connect Kathmandu to Indian rail network to pursue ‘common destiny’

The deal includes connecting Nepal and China by railway, roads, and power grids, apart from allowing Nepal access to Chinese seaports for trade with third countries

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2018, 2:54pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2018, 10:38pm

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday pledged to connect Kathmandu, the capital of landlocked Nepal, to his country’s railway network.

Speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Nepali counterpart Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Modi said Kathmandu would be linked by railway to India’s Raxaul city bordering Birgunj, Nepal’s biggest trading point with its larger southern neighbour.

Modi also said that he and Oli have agreed to develop inland waterways for the movement of cargo, which would provide additional access for Nepal to Indian seaports.

Modi praised Oli’s vision of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepalis” as one that complements his own mantra of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” or collective effort, inclusive growth.

Speaking after Modi, Oli said Nepal and India share a “common destiny” and therefore “Nepal attaches great importance to relations with India”.

He, however, stressed that Nepal wants relations based on “equality, justice and respect”.

The electrified rail line to Kathmandu, which so far has only road and aviation linkages, will be constructed with India’s financial support. Preparatory survey works are to be completed within a year.

Oli flew to New Delhi on Friday on a three-day state visit. Earlier on Saturday, he called on Indian President Ram Nath Kovind.

China is a reality for Nepal, a fact that India must accept

Oli earned considerable political capital as well as an anti-India image during his previous tenure as prime minister when he refused to relent to Indian pressure to amend Nepal’s Constitution. His communist alliance swept elections last year, running on a nationalistic platform. He returned to power in February.

Since the resounding victory, Modi has worked hard to win Oli’s confidence. In a rare gesture, Modi sent Sushma Swaraj, India’s external affairs minister, to Kathmandu to congratulate Oli and convey India’s willingness to work with his government, even before Oli had become prime minister for the second time.

During his first tenure, Oli responded to a five-month trade blockade, imposed by New Delhi as a show of displeasure towards Nepal’s Constitution, by signing a 10-point deal with Beijing.

The deal includes connecting Nepal and China by railway, roads, and power grids, apart from allowing Nepal access to Chinese seaports for trade with third countries.

The highlight of the deal is the extension of Qinghai-Tibet railway to Lumbini of Nepal via Rasuwa Ghadhi, Kathmandu and Pokhara.