Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali was in New Delhi last week to attend the fourth edition of the ‘Raisina Dialogue’. He took this opportunity to exchange views with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on various aspects of India-Nepal relations. The two Ministers reviewed recent developments in bilateral ties across diverse sectors, including the progress achieved in new initiatives taken since 2018 in matters of connectivity, agriculture and waterways. Both leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress in cooperation in various fields and reiterated their commitment to maintain the momentum to further strengthen the traditionally close and friendly bilateral ties.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in May last year (his third in less than four years), both the countries had underlined the catalytic role of connectivity in stimulating economic growth and promoting people to people relations. India and Nepal had taken three new initiatives last year in the fields of railways, agriculture and waterways. The Waterways connectivity was an entirely new area for both countries.
In the fulfillment of this objective, senior officials from both sides have been discussing the modalities for operating inland waterways for cargo services in the Koshi and Narayani rivers of Nepal through the Ganges. The landmark decision about exploring the possibility of this additional means of transport between India and Nepal within the framework of ‘Trade and Transit Treaty’ was taken during Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s visit to India in April 2018. This additional cross border transportation service will link Nepal with sea with cost effective movement of cargo. The two Ministers reviewed the progress in this regard at their New Delhi meet.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Nepal on the sidelines of BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu last August for preliminary survey of the proposed railway line from the border town of Raxaul in India to Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital. The two countries had agreed to construct this new electrified railway line with financial assistance from India. The survey is to be completed within a year. The two Foreign Ministers also reviewed the progress of this project as well as of other railway projects which are in various stages of implementation in Nepal with India’s assistance. The third transformative initiative taken by India and Nepal last year was in agriculture as both countries are largely agrarian and are eager to enhance cooperation in this vital field of economy. They decided to focus on collaborative projects in research and development, training in modern agricultural practices, improved seed technology, soil health, agro forestry, animal husbandry and other related areas. As a follow up to this decision, Nepal’s Minister for Agriculture, Land Management and Cooperatives Chakrapani Khanal visited New Delhi in June last year and held extensive discussions with India’s Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Radha Mohan Singh on this New Partnership in Agriculture.
Mrs. Sushma Swaraj and Mr. Gyawali discussed these new initiatives in detail and also reviewed the progress of other ongoing projects in Nepal being implemented with India’s assistance. Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, Mr. Gyawali underlined the need for India and Nepal to work together for common progress and prosperity, better physical connectivity and greater people to people connection. Describing India as Nepal’s biggest trading partner, he reminded the delegates from more than 90 countries that Nepal and India are connected by geography, history, religion and culture and enjoy a comprehensive relationship. Mrs. Swaraj told the Conference that New Delhi has devoted higher resources and attention to its immediate and extended neighbourhood and is pursuing building next generation regional connectivity and critical infrastructure. The Raisina Dialogue was organized jointly by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation, an independent Think-Tank which aims to forge global partnership.
Script: Rattan Saldi, Political Commentator