Nepal President to begin 5-day India visit from today; infrastructure, energy on agenda
With Nepal's President Bidya Devi Bhandari beginning her state visit on Monday, India said its relations with Nepal are people-centric and are focused on improving connectivity between the neighbours as well as energy infrastructure.
"We have maintained our focus on implementation of ongoing connectivity and development projects such as Terai roads, cross-border rail lines linkages, development of integrated check posts on the border, cross-border oil pipeline -- the first in South Asia -- and cross-border transmission lines," said Joint Secretary, Nepal and Bhutan, in the Indian External Affairs Ministry Sudhakar Dalela while briefing media on the upcoming visit in New Delhi.
In her first foreign tour, Bhandari is paying a state visit to India from April 17 to 21 at the invitation of her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee. Besides meeting top Indian leaders, Bhandari, who will be accompanied by a high-level 33-member delegation, will also visit Gujarat and Odisha.
The visit reflects "the priority India attaches to further strengthening the age-old unique partnership with Nepal and our shared historical and cultural linkages and strong people to people connection", Dalela said.
On the cooperation between the two neighbours in the area of energy infrastructure, he said this is witnessing a new high with the Indian cabinet last month approving investment of Rs 5,723 crore for Arun 3 power project in Nepal and operationalisation of the Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar high capacity transmission line, which has taken India's electricity supply to Nepal to about 380 MW.
The project, located on Arun River in Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal, will provides 21.9 per cent free power to Nepal for the entire concession period of 25 years while the surplus will go to India.
About the power transmission lines, Dalela said: "We have almost finished work on two more transmission line projects from Raxaul to Parwanipur(Nepal) and Kushaha (Nepal)-Kataiya and we believe with the conclusion of these two projects, we will be able to supply more power to Nepal."
India is supplying 80 MW more through the Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar (Nepal) transmission line from this year.
Dalela also said that India had also agreed to Nepal's proposed 16 road projects and bridges of amount for approximately $300 million under the $550 million line of credit India had extended.
On the trade imbalance, he said that bilateral trade is about $5 billion and Nepal's exports to India about $600 million and both governments are trying to improve the condition of trade including issues related to non-tariff barriers.
He also said that the bilateral oversight mechanism, which was established in last October, has met three times in last six months and has been extremely helpful in addressing implementation challenges of both sides.
On the border Integrated Check Post, he said the one at Birganj is 85 per cent done and will be completed this year while the contract for Birganj has been awarded, while the work on two rail links - Jogbani-Biratnagar and Jayanagar-Bartibas is on.
On the ongoing consultation for exchange of demonetised Indian currency notes held by Nepalis, he said: "Nepal's Rashtra Bank and the Reserve Bank of India have been in consultation in process of dialogue. Very recently a delegation of RBI visited Nepal to hold discussions. Progress so far has been very good... This issue is in focus of both sides."
To a query on the constitution making process in Nepal, he said: "India has an abiding interest peace stability and development in Nepal" and is supportive of Nepal's "efforts to address all constitutional implementation issues by taking all section of the society on board".
Meanwhile in Kathmandu, the Nepal government said that no MoU will be signed during the visit, which is just a goodwill visit mainly focusing on consolidating and strengthening the bilateral ties.
Bhandari's 33-member delegation includes Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat and Peace and Reconstruction Minister Sita Devi Yadav, five women parliament members representing various political parties, two former MPs, senior officials at the President's Office and the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, security personnel and three media persons.
The Nepal government has decided to have two public holidays - on Monday and Friday - during the departure and return of the President. Law Minister Ajay Shankar Nayak said that as per custom, public holidays are given whenever the head of state embarks on an official visit to any nation.
Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport has declared no-fly zones for 35 minutes from 10.30 a.m. when the President is due to leave.