India offers help to lay rail line to Kathmandu

India offers help to lay rail line to Kathmandu

India offers help to lay rail line to Kathmandu

To counter Beijing's growing influence on Kathmandu, New Delhi will not only build a rail-link between India and the capital of Nepal, but will also help the landlocked country get access to the oceans through inland waterways.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday assured his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli of India's continued support to development of Nepal, as both sides sought to rebuild ties, which was strained in 2015 over the new constitution of the neighbouring country. Modi and Oli agreed that New Delhi would provide financial support to construct a new electrified rail line which would connect Raxaul near India-Nepal border in Bihar to Kathmandu. An agency of the Government of India will carry out the preparatory survey work for the proposed rail-link within a year.

New Delhi's decision to link Kathmandu with the rail-network of India is apparently a response to Beijing's move to build a rail line connecting Lhasa and Gyirong in Tibet Autonomous Region of China with the capital of Nepal. Beijing offered Kathmandu to help build the rail-line as a part Chinese President Xi Jinping's "Belt and Road Initiative".

Nepal has joined the ambitious cross-continental connectivity initiative launched by China, while India remains opposed to it.

Modi and Oli also agreed that New Delhi would help Kathmandu develop inland waterways for transit of cargo from Nepal to the ports of India. "With our assistance, Nepal will get an extra connectivity to the sea. And the land of Sagarmatha (the Mount Everest) will have direct connectivity with the Sagar (ocean). I believe that this is a historical beginning," Modi said after his meeting with Oli at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. He said that the Raxaul-Kathmandu rail-link and the development of inland-waterways would turn landlocked Nepal into not only a "land-linked" country, but also a "water-linked" one.

Oli said that the additional connectivity would have an "enormous impact" on "growth of business and economy of Nepal". "Infrastructure and connectivity are vital areas of our development," said Nepalese Prime Minister, who is heading the ruling coalition comprising three communist parties of the neighbouring country. New Delhi suspects that Beijing played a role in cobbling the leftist coalition, which won the elections in Nepal in November-December 2017.

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