April 8, 2018
India and Nepal share a long border and citizens of both nations do not require passports or visas to travel between the two countries
India was among the early responders after the 2015 earthquake that devastated the landlocked nation, offering up to US$2 billion in aid
Along with development of connectivity projects, the nations will increase cooperation in areas of skill development, education and health
India is Nepal’s largest trade partner with bilateral trade during 2016-17 recorded at US$6 billion - a growth of over 37% from previous year
India and Nepal reaffirmed their deep and shared cultural, historical, religious and political ties following the visit of Nepali Prime Minister, KP Sharma Oli, to India during April 6-8, 2018. The state visit was consequent to an invitation from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The visit also culminated into a number of agreements signed between both sides which are expected to further strengthen the foundation of the bilateral relationship. India and Nepal share a long border and citizens of both nations do not require passports or visas to travel between the two countries. The depth of this strong connections can be gauged from the fact that Nepali citizens are free to not only seek employment in India but to also own land and property in the country.
In fact, Nepali citizens are also eligible to join the Indian armed forces, a unique and unparalleled example of strong ties between two neighbouring nations. Nepal’s imports of essential commodities such as petroleum products are unloaded at Indian ports, mostly at Kolkata and Haldia ports, and transported through road to the former mountain kingdom. India was among the early responders during the deadly 2015 earthquake that devastated the landlocked nation. Consequently, the Indian Government sanctioned a US$1-billion line of credit for Nepal post disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation programme, in addition to another US$1 billion sanctioned as reconstruction assistance, 40 per cent of which is in the form of grants and the balance as soft loans.
After the meeting with PM Oli, PM Modi said: “India and Nepal have close and deep connection in matters of defence and security. We both agree to prevent the abuse of our open border and to pursue our shared security interests. The open border between the two countries offers a bridge for people of both the countries. Along with development of Ramayana and Buddhist circuits, we will also increase our cooperation in the areas of skill development, education and health. This will further strengthen traditional relations between our two countries.”
The agreements signed during the visit focussed primarily on improving connectivity between the neighbouring nations and on enhancing development cooperation, particularly in agriculture. One of the agreements signed is related to an India-financed electric rail link connecting Raxaul on the border with Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. As a first step, over the next one year, Indian Government will conduct a preparatory survey, on the basis of this survey and a resultant detailed project report, both sides will consequently finalise the implementation and financing details of the project.
Both sides also reviewed progress made on Phase-I of cross-border rail link projects signed earlier. Two connectivity projects – a stretch of railway lines from Jayanagar to Janakpur/Kurtha, and, from Jogbani to Biratnagar Custom Yard – are expected to be completed in 2018. Both leaders agreed to prioritise work on the remaining stretch of the ongoing rail projects: Jayanagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas and Jogbani- Biratnagar. The leaders also committed to implementing the remaining three links under Phase-II of the India-Nepal cross-border rail link projects: New Jalpaiguri-Kakarbhitta, Nautanwa-Bhairahawa, and Nepalgunj Road-Nepalgunj.
During the visit, two leaders also looked beyond the confines of rail connectivity and identified inland waterways as a critical channel for improving the region’s economic development. The two sides have decided to develop inland waterways for cargo movement, within the broad trade and transit arrangement between the two nations, thereby presenting Nepal with an alternative route and link to sea ports. This will be in addition to the existing rail and road links.
The two sides also decided to take the existing bilateral partnership to the next level by launching a new partnership in agriculture. The partnership will focus on collaborative projects in agricultural research and development, education, training and scholarships; strengthening of supply and value chains; climate resilience; research in seed technology; soil health; strengthening infrastructure of plant protection laboratories; research in indigenous genetic resources; animal husbandry; veterinary research and development facilities; agro forestry; bio-pesticides, bio-fertilisers; cooperative farming, and promoting exchanges between the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC).
A joint statement summing up the state visit said: “The two Prime Ministers underlined the need for expeditious implementation of bilateral projects in Nepal, and to reinvigorate the existing bilateral mechanisms to promote cooperative agenda across diverse spheres.” India is Nepal’s largest trade partner. Total trade between India and Nepal during 2016-17 worked out to around US$6 billion, showing a growth of more than 37 per cent from the previous year.