Soon, new rail line to connect India and Kathmandu, says PM Modi

File KP Sharma Oli

The two Prime Ministers inaugurated the Integrated Check Post at Birgunj in Nepal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli on Saturday sought to put behind them the acrimony witnessed in ties between their two nations in 2015-16 by announcing game-changing joint initiatives in key areas like rail connectivity, agriculture, waterways and security.

Prior to Oli's visit, India had made its stance clear that Nepal may give as many dam projects to China as the country wished but India wouldn't be in a position to buy the energy produced. The relations between India and Nepal took a nosedive thereafter with his Government accusing India of causing instability and economic blockage.

On his part, Oli said he has come to India to take the bilateral ties between the two countries to newer heights.

He expressed the desire of the Government of Nepal to develop bilateral relations in a way so as to benefit from India's progress and prosperity for economic transformation and development.

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India's indifferent response to the blockade by the United Democratic Madhesi Front had triggered speculation about New Delhi's tacit support for the protest against Nepal's Constitution for not factoring in proportional representation to the Madhesis who have Indian ancestry. "Nepal attaches great importance to its relations with India, our countries enjoy age-old historical ties and have many things to offer to each other". Prime Minister Modi congratulated the people and the Government of Nepal for successful conduct of local level, federal parliament and first-ever provincial elections in Nepal and appreciated their vision for stability, and development. Now with the Prime Minister of Nepal is here, there will definitely be significant developments beneficial both for India and Nepal.

The objective, it said, is to expand "connectivity" between the two neighbours and "enhance people-to-people linkages and promote economic growth and development".

The Kathmandu based The Himalayan Times reports said that PM Oli stressed the issues of hydropower development, water resources, improving cross border infrastructure including railways and connectivity through river navigation (connected with waterways).

This will enable cost effective and efficient movement of cargo and greatly impact the growth of business and economy of Nepal.

According to the joint statement, the prime ministers of India and Nepal agreed to construct a new electrified rail line, with India's financial support, connecting Raxaul in India to Kathmandu.

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The Nepalese PM said friendship was more important than signing agreements.

China 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.

The 135-day blockade from September 20, 2015, at the Raxaul-Birgunj check post - which accounts for about 70 per cent of supplies to Nepal from India - had soured bilateral relations, already strained by the big brother attitude India showed earlier in the year by making a big display of its relief work during the Nepal quake.

On security and open borders, Mr. Modi said: "We have strong relations when it comes to the aspect of security and are committed towards stopping misuse of our open borders".

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

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