India, Nepal try to mend fences; Nine agreements signed

India, Nepal try to mend fences; Nine agreements signed

India, Nepal try to mend fences; Nine agreements signed
India today conveyed to Nepal that success of its new Constitution will depend on resolution of contentious issues through "consensus and dialogue" in a time-bound manner as both sides held extensive talks with focus on repairing ties soured in the wake of a four-month -long agitation by the Indian-origin Madhesi community.

India was for peace, stability and overall development of Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted after meeting his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli, who on his part said the main reason for his visit was to clear "misunderstandings" in ties that persisted in the last few months and that they "no longer exist".

The two sides signed nine agreements including one on utilisation of Indian grant of USD 250 million to Nepal for post-earthquake reconstruction and another on improving of road infrastructure in Nepal's Terai region bordering India.

Calling finalisation of Constitution a major achievement for Nepal, Modi expressed the hope that all political parties will come together to successfully resolve "remaining" Constitutional issues satisfactorily, taking in considerations aspirations of all sections of the society.

"The drafting and announcement of the new Constitution after decades of struggle in Nepal is a major achievement. I appreciate the contribution of the political leadership and all sections of the society in Nepal in its making.

""But its success depends on consensus and dialogue. I am confident on the basis of these principles and through political dialogue and by taking all sections together, you (Oli) will be able to resolve all issues relating to the Constitution satisfactorily and take Nepal forward towards the path of development and stability," Modi said in his media statement, in presence of Oli.

In the meeting, Modi stressed that Nepal's stability was linked to India's security. On combating terrorism, he said, "We will not allow terrorists and criminals to use our open border. In this regard the security agencies of the two countries will intensify cooperation."

Asked if the Nepalese Prime Minister could address India's concerns, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the "tone and tenor" of the visit was forward-looking, adding assurances given on addressing grievances within Nepal if left unaddressed may "detract" the country from stability.

"This was not a recriminatory visit. This was a forward- looking visit. It was a visit in a cooperative sense," he said, replying to a barrage of questions on whether India was satisfied with Nepal's assurance on issues relating to the new Constitution.

He said Modi expressed the hope that all the outstanding issues in the Constitution will be resolved in a time-bound manner.

On whether India was worried about Nepal getting closer to China, Jaishankar rejected such apprehensions saying the word China did not come up in the talks.

In his statement, Oli, who arrived here yesterday on his first foreign visit after becoming Prime Minister in October last year, said he came to clear misunderstandings and "have done so".

Ties between the two countries had soured in the wake of agitation by the Madhesi community, which shares close family and cultural ties with Indians, saying it failed to address their concerns over representation and homeland.

The agitators had blocked trading points for almost four months crippling supply of petroleum products, medicines and other commodities by India to that country. The blockade was lifted this month.

The Madhesi community is opposed to carving of seven provinces under the new Constitution and has been demanding adequate protection of their rights.

Three major demands of the Madhesi community include re-demarcation of the boundary, inclusion of proportionate representation and allocation of Parliament seats on the basis of population.

Jaishankar said the issues within Nepal have impacted India. He said two issues including the one relating to provincial boundary are being resolved, while hoping that concerns by Madhesi community relating to citizenship will also be addressed.

The Foreign Secretary said that Prime Minister Modi appreciated efforts towards consolidation of parliamentary democracy in Nepal, acknowledging two amendments aimed at addressing concerns of agitators as positive steps.

"He expressed hope that all political parties will come together in a spirit of consensus and dialogue and successfully resolve remaining constitutional issues in a time-bound manner," he said.

The Prime Minister said India always wanted peace, stability and prosperity of Nepal and that it would extend all possible help to ensure its all-round development.

He said India's economic progress may become a reason for Nepal's progress and that transport corridors may become "highways" of growth and development. "It is an important moment for Nepal-India ties," Modi said after the talks.

The countries decided to open two more transit points which Modi described as a major development. "I appreciate the love and goodwill of people of Nepal towards India. At the same time, I respect aspirations of people of Nepal," he said.

Talking about hydropower potential of Nepal, he said the two countries are working on projects to facilitate generation of 7,000 MW of power and that their quick implementation will result in Nepal's speedy development.

The two Prime Ministers also dedicated 400 KV Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line via "tele- inauguration" from Hyderabad House. India will supply 80 mega watt of power through the line to Nepal now and it will be enhanced to 600 MW in the next two years.

In his statement Oli, recalled Modi's visit to Nepal in August 2014 and how people still talk about it. Oli has extended an invitation to Modi to visit the country again.

Modi also offered to set up Ayurvedic colleges in Nepal by India while talking about possible areas of cooperation. The Prime Minister also paid glowing tributes to former premier Sushil Koirala, who died earlier this month, for strengthening India-Nepal ties.

The agreements signed today will provide for cultural cooperation and facilitate trade between between Nepal and Bagladesh through Kakarbitta-Banglabandh corridor and through of Vishakapatnam port.

Under the MoU on strengthening of road infrastructure, a total of 518 kms of roads will be strengthened in Terai region bordering India.

As per a pact on transit routes, traffic of goods between Nepal and Bangladesh will be facilitated through the Kakarbhitta (Nepal) and Banglabandha (Bangladesh) corridor. It will also provide for transit facilities for Nepal through the Vishakhapatnam port.

A separate pact on rail transport to and from Vishakhapatnam and rail transit facility through Singhabad for Nepal's trade with Bangladesh was inked. In their talks, the two sides also deliberated on promoting sub-regional cooperation in trade, power and some other sectors.

The Nepalese Prime Minister mentioned about India's assistance to Nepal after it was struck by a devastating quake. He also appreciated India's announcement of USD 1 billion for reconstruction projects out of which USD 250 million is being released.

"The earthquake hit Nepal, but its pain was felt by every Indian. Our USD 1 billion assistance package will take forward our cooperation in this area," Modi said. An MoU on utilization of USD 250 million grant component by India for post-earthquake reconstruction assistance was signed today.

"India's assistance has always been constructive. Our actions have been in line with the priorities of people of Nepal," Modi said. It was felt in the meeting that Line of Credit given by India to Nepal should be spent more speedily.

On trade, the Nepalese side underlined the need for addressing the trade imbalance which is in India's favour. 46 per cent of foreign investment in Nepal is from India.

The Nepalese Prime Minister also requested Modi to encourage Indian business groups to invest in Nepal and assured full protection to them.

In the evening, Oli, who is staying at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, called on President Pranab Mukherjee. Earlier, Oli was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan where Modi was also present.

Before the talks between the Prime Ministers, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Oli. During the meeting, he conveyed to her that Nepal is and will remain a "reliable" friend of India.

Official sources said Oli told Swaraj that he wants to "move forward in the relationship which is not man-made but entirely natural and civilizational".

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