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India, Nepal agree to boost ties

New Delhi, April 7: After months of stress in ties, India and Nepal on Saturday agreed to crank-up cooperation in connectivity, trade, agriculture and border security as Prime Minister rendra Modi gave an assurance that New Delhi remains committed to strengthening the partnership as per Nepal’s priorities. Seeking to readjust the ties, Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, on a three-day visit to India, held wide-ranging talks with Modi, who also assured the visiting leader that India would always back Nepal in its quest for development.

“Prime Minister Modi assured Prime Minister Oli that India remains committed to strengthening its partnership with Nepal as per the priorities of the Government of Nepal,” the statement said. Oli, who has developed closer ties with Chi with a known pro-Beijing stance, said he has come to India “with a mission” to take bilateral ties based on “principles of equality and justice” to newer heights but “commensurate with the realities of the 21st Century”.
Modi hailed successful conduct of polls in Nepal and congratulated both the people of Nepal and the government for entering into “a new era of political history”. He said the two countries agreed to put on faster tracks all connectivity projects, announcing that a new railway line will be built “with India’s fincial support” to connect the border city of Raxaul in India to Kathmandu in Nepal. The objective, according to a joint statement, is to expand “connectivity” between the two neighbours and “enhance people-to-people linkages and promote economic growth and development”.
Prime Ministers Modi and Oli also recognised the untapped potential of inland waterways between the countries that can contribute in an overall economic development of the Himalayan region.
The connectivity proposals are significant and come nearly two years after Chi in March 2016 agreed to construct a strategic railway link with Nepal through Tibet to reduce the Kathmandu’s total dependence on India.
The Nepal-Chi agreements came at a time when Kathmandu-New Delhi ties started soaring after a border blockade in 2015-16. Many in Kathmandu blamed India for the 135-day blockade from September, 2015 to February, 2016 that crippled Nepal’s economy. Chi 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. But Oli’s April 6-8 visit indicated a new India-Nepal bonhomie during which he and Modi announced enhanced security ties, particularly on borders to curb curb misuse of open boundaries between the two countries. Oli said his government accorded a priority to friends like India that has helped his landlocked tion in fighting poverty. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita