KATHMANDU, May 11 : Prime Minister KP Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi have agreed to strengthen air, waterways and rail connectivity of Nepal so as to transform Nepal from a landlocked to a land-linked and water-linked country.
“I am very much fascinated by Prime Minister Modiji’s idea of HIT – highway, information and transmission. I want to add two more on that – inland waterways and airways,” Oli said at a press meet jointly addressed by him and Indian Prime Minister Modi at Dwarika’s Hotel in Kathmandu on Friday. The two prime ministers addressed the press after their one-on-one meeting and bilateral meeting of the delegations of the two countries at the same hotel. Modi arrived in Kathmandu hours after he landed in Janakpur, where he was accorded civic reception.
Modi in his address applauded Nepal for successfully holding three tiers of elections within a year. “This period will be remembered as a golden period in Nepal’s history,” he said. “India is ready to support Nepal in its efforts toward inclusive development and economic prosperity.”
Oli sought Indian permission for four additional air routes for Nepal. Nepal wants air routes via Janakpur, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar.
Earlier, the two sides had agreed to develop new connectivity through inland waterways between the two countries during Oli’s visit to India in April.
In response, Modi, who addressed the press after Oli, expressed his commitment to immediately start preparatory work for the cross-border electrified railway. “A team will immediately start survey of Raxaul-Kathmandu railway soon,” said Modi. “I express my full support to materialize KP Oliji’s vision of transforming Nepal from a landlocked to a land-linked country.” He also said that work on inland waterways will be started without any further delay.
The two prime ministers also announced to make comprehensive review of the 1996 Nepal-India Trade Treaty. In this treaty, Nepal wants to include facilities of transshipments of third countries be made available at Raxaul. Nepali traders say this will reduce the cost of trading and other hassles significantly. Currently Nepali traders need to go to Vishakhapatnam and Kolkata ports for transshipments. Transshipment is the shipment of goods or containers to an intermediate destination, then to yet another destination.
Oli also sought Modi’s support to resolve the long-pending issue of demonetized money held by banks and the general public in Nepal. A large number of people in Nepal have been affected after the Indian government demonetized Indian currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations.
Oli also announced that implementation of past agreements and understandings reached at bilateral talks and between the two prime ministers will be given top priority. “We have agreed to address all agreements and understandings including on new partnership for agriculture and rail links and waterways by September 19 , on our Constitution Day or National Day,” Oli said. “To this effect, our foreign secretaries will work.”
Oli also stressed the need for reducing Nepal’s trade deficit with India. “India is our largest trading partner. However, the growing trade deficit [of Nepal] has been a serious matter of concern for Nepal,” said Oli. “I believe that India has both the capacity and willingness to address our genuine concerns.”
Oli said work on 400KVA Raxaul-Butwal transmission line will be expedited.
The two prime ministers also expressed their commitments to address various other serious issues such as inundation and cross-border crimes. “We will further strengthen our joint efforts on defense and security to control cross-border crimes that have been taking place by misusing our open-borders that are quite important for people on both the sides,” said Modi.