India, Nepal seek new direction to bilateral ties as Modi, Oli meet

Modi holds talks with Nepal prime minister, announces new railway, petroleum products line

As a first step towards building the railway connectivity, the two sides agreed that India in consultation with Nepal will carry out preparatory survey work within one year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepali counterpart Khadga Prasad Oli issued a joint statement on Saturday in New Delhi after holding bilateral discussions.

India pledged on Saturday to upgrade road and cross-border rail links with Nepal and develop inland waterways to provide sea connectivity to the landlocked Himalayan nation. Areas for development include hydro-power generation plants, railways linking the 2 countries.

Boosting their ties further, India also agreed to conduct a pilot project on organic farming and soil health monitoring in Nepal to help the natural resource-rich neighbour in developing agriculture and allied sectors. "There is a long history of India's contribution towards Nepal's development".

"We are firm in our resolve to maintain this position and it is natural that we expect a similar assurance from India", Oli said.

Modi also said that the two governments were committed to preventing the misuse of the open border between India and Nepal.

On April 7, 2018, the two Prime Ministers comprehensively reviewed the entire spectrum of multifaceted ties between the two countries. He also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to pay an early visit to Nepal, which Modi accepted. With the doklam face off and other border related issues still remaining unsolved with China, India needs to play strategically with its neighbor. On being asked about why he had chosen India over China for his maiden foreign visit after assuming the post in February, Oli added, "India invited me and so I visited India". "Regular exchanges of visits at the highest political level between the two countries demonstrate the priority that we attach to our special partnership", the President said in a statement.

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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.

Assuring all possible support to Nepal, Modi said the Nepalese prime minister's vision for a "prosperous Nepal and developed Nepal" was in sync with his vision of "sabka sath sabka vikas" (together with all, development for all).

The connectivity proposals are significant and come almost two years after China in March 2016 agreed to construct a strategic railway link with Nepal through Tibet to reduce the Kathmandu's total dependence on India.

Setting aside concerns over Nepal awarding key development projects to rival China, PM Modi said India will continue to support Nepal on the country's priorities even as both sides have agreed to expedite all connectivity projects. Nepal's fuel import bill is said to have trebled in the last five years.

Oli was received by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the national capital on Friday.

Oli, however, emphasised on the "principles of equality, justice and mutual respect" - a reference to the blockade that disrupted Nepal's economy in 2015 during the Madhesi agitation.

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