New Delhi, Aug 24: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi have expressed satisfaction over the excellent state of India-Nepal relations that are deep, comprehensive and multi-faceted. They also pledged to pursue new opportunities to further deepen bilateral relations for the benefit of the peoples of both countries, while committing to further reinvigorate the existing mechanisms.
In a joint statement issued on the occasion of the state visit of Prime Minister Deuba to India, the two Prime Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work towards strengthening bilateral relations on the basis of mutual trust, goodwill, mutual benefit, with due regard to each other’s aspirations, sensitivities and interests.
The two Prime Ministers appreciated the regular exchange of high-level visits that have given a new momentum in taking the bilateral cooperation agenda forward and appreciated the regular meetings of sector specific bilateral mechanisms across diverse sectors of cooperation.
The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction on the progress made by the Eminent Persons Group on Nepal-India Relations in their four meetings since its establishment in February 2015. They hoped that the Group would submit its report within its mandated period, suggesting measures to further expand the close and multifaceted ties between the two countries, in accordance with its Terms of Reference, including any recommendations on review of past bilateral treaties, it is stated in the joint statement.
In the area of strengthening defence and security cooperation, the two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction over the ongoing defence cooperation and committed to further enhancing close cooperation between the Indian Army and the Nepal Army. Prime Minister Deuba thanked the Government of India for continued assistance in training and capacity building of the security forces of Nepal.
The two Prime Ministers also expressed satisfaction at the excellent cooperation on security-related matters. The two sides expressed commitment to ensure that the open border, a unique feature of India-Nepal bilateral relations that has facilitated unhindered movement of people on both sides of the border, is not misused by unscrupulous elements posing security threat to either side. The two sides reiterated their commitment that their respective territories would not be allowed to be used for any activities inimical to the other.
Highlighting the need for partnership for sustainable development, the two leaders expressed satisfaction on the functioning of the ‘Oversight Mechanism’ established in 2016, and the progress made through the mechanism in resolving bottlenecks and speeding up implementation of ongoing projects under bilateral economic and development cooperation.
The Prime Minister of India reiterated India’s commitment to work with the Government of Nepal to expedite post-earthquake reconstruction projects in a time-bound manner. The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction at the finalization of modalities for implementation as well as identification of projects in the four identified sectors for India’s reconstruction assistance. It was agreed to identify at the earliest projects under the US$ 750 million Line of Credit for post-earthquake reconstruction.
They also noted with satisfaction utilization of the two Lines of Credit of US$ 100 million and US$ 250 million for development of roads and power infrastructure in Nepal. The two Prime Ministers welcomed the allocation of US$ 200 million for irrigation projects, and US$ 330 million for development of roads from LoC of US$ 550 million.
The two Prime Ministers urged a constructive pursuit of a forward-looking development agenda wherein each country could learn from and contribute to the social and economic initiatives of a transformative nature. Towards this objective, it was agreed to initiate an annual policy dialogue between the NITI Aayog of India and the National Planning Commission of Nepal.
Enhancing cross-border connectivity through infrastructure development
Moreover, the two Prime Ministers shared the view that enhanced connectivity between India and Nepal would increase people-to-people contacts and promote economic growth. They reviewed the progress made in the implementation of bilateral connectivity projects.
Both sides recognized the need for early completion of two ongoing cross-border rail-link projects— Jayanagar-Bijalpur-Bardibas and Jogbani-Biratnagar rail-links. The two Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction that the railway line from Jayanagar to Janakpur and from Jogbani to Biratnagar Custom Yard will be completed by 2018. The Nepali side committed to resolve all issues for expeditious completion of both the projects.
Similarly, the two Prime Ministers underlined the importance of rail links in India-Nepal connectivity as these links will usher in growth and development by way of enhanced trade and tourism links. They also agreed on early completion of the Field Location Survey of remaining three cross-border rail links— New Jalpaiguri to Kakarbhitta, Nautanwa to Bhairahawa, and Nepalgunj Road to Nepalgunj.
They welcomed the award of work of Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Biratnagar and directed their respective officials to pursue its construction and operationalize ICP Birgunj by December 2017. The two Prime Ministers underlined the need for early approval of Detailed Engineering Designs of ICPs at Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj.
The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction on the award of contract for twelve packages under nine roads, totalling about 240 kms, under the Terai Roads project. The Nepali side assured to resolve expeditiously all encumbrances relating to land acquisition, forest clearances and removal of utility services for early completion of the project.
Nepal to consider Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline project as priority project
The Prime Minister of Nepal conveyed that Nepal considers the Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline project a priority project. The two Prime Ministers welcomed the finalization of Detailed Engineering Route Survey and Engineering Design reports of the project. They directed the concerned officials to expeditiously remove all bottlenecks, including Right of Way, land acquisition, environmental and regulatory clearances, so that the construction work could begin at the earliest.
The Prime Ministers welcomed the decision to set up a Joint Working Group on cooperation in oil and gas sectors, which would consider advancing cooperation in areas such as construction of LPG pipeline from Motihari to Amlekhgunj, construction of Natural Gas pipeline from Gorakhpur to Sunwal and assistance of IOCL for preparing DPR for extension of Petroleum Products pipeline from Amlekhgunj to Chitwan in Nepal.
Cooperation in projects of national priority for Nepal
In response to Nepali PM's highlighting priority projects for Nepal’s growth and development, the Indian PM underlined that India stands ready to provide economic and development cooperation assistance. The two sides reached in principle agreement for Indian grant assistance to support the establishment of Technical Institute in Far West of Nepal, and the GP Koirala National Centre for Respiratory Diseases in Tanahun.
In addition, the two Prime Ministers agreed that their governments would hold discussions to explore the feasibility of cooperation on mutually agreed basis on the projects as Kushinagar-Lumbini-Kapilavastu and Bardibas-Birgunj Railways, up gradation of Birgunj-Pathlaiya-Narayanghat and Butwal-Pokhara roads into express ways, international airport at Nijgadh, motorable bridges on the Mahakali River, Maitri Bridge at Birgunj-Raxaul border, development of dry port at Dodhara Chandani, developing a Special Economic Zone in Nepal, development of new 132 kV transmission lines, Butwal (Nepal)-Gorakhpur (India) cross-border transmission line and Lumki (Nepal)-Bareilly (India) cross-border transmission line.
Harnessing water resources and expanding energy cooperation
Both Nepal and India while noting the positive and productive discussion on the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, directed the concerned officials to finalize its Detailed Project Report within a month.
PM Deuba reiterated the commitment of Nepal to address all pending issues on priority relating to 900 MW Arun-III and Upper Karnali hydropower projects, in accordance with the project development agreements.
The Indian side conveyed the finalization of Detailed Project Report for the construction of head regulator and link canal from Tanakpur Barrage to the Nepali side.
They agreed that the work on preparation of the Detailed Project Report for the Saptakoshi high dam and Sunkoshi storage cum diversion scheme be expedited. The two sides also agreed to strengthen coordination and consultation on the pressing matter of inundation and flood management in the border areas. In this regard, it was agreed to take expeditious steps, including joint visits, to consider appropriate measures for sustainable solution.
Operationalization of all aspects of the PTA
It was agreed that both sides will continue to take measures to operationalize all aspects of the Power Trade Agreement signed in 2014. The two Prime Ministers appreciated the efforts of both sides in preparing a Master Plan for the cross-border interconnection for the period until 2035.
PM Deuba expresses concern over growing trade deficit with India
The two Prime Ministers highlighted the importance of realizing the full potential of bilateral trade and investment. They welcomed the renewal of the India-Nepal Treaty of Trade and the Agreement of Cooperation between Government of India and Government of Nepal to Control Unauthorized Trade, in October 2016, for further period of seven years.
According to the joint press statement, PM Deuba expressed concern over Nepal’s growing trade deficit with India. The two Prime Ministers underscored that there is a considerable potential to enhance the bilateral trade, which could be harnessed by addressing infrastructural deficiencies and trade restricting measures as well as by adopting trade facilitation measures for easier market access to agricultural and industrial products. Both sides agreed to cooperate towards strengthening testing and certifying laboratories, establishing quarantine facilities and harmonising standards.
Both Prime Ministers also agreed on early conclusion of the Letters of Exchange for transit of bulk cargo to Nepal using multi-modal transport, movement of traffic in transit via Nepal and on amendment to Rail Services Agreement. Both sides agreed to take steps for early upgradation and operationalization of the agreed trade points namely Dhangadhi-Gauriphanta, Guleria-Murthia, Jatahi-Pipraun and Pashupatinagar-Sukhiapokhri.
The two sides also agreed that issues relating to impact of introduction of Goods and Service Tax in India on bilateral and transit trade be examined expeditiously. It was agreed that the next meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee on trade, transit and control of unauthorized trade at the Secretary level will be held by end-2017, to discuss all trade and transit related issues with an objective to facilitate bilateral and transit trade.
The two Prime Ministers emphasized the need for channelizing more direct investments from India into Nepal.
The two Prime Ministers appreciated the contribution made by the B.P. Koirala India-Nepal Foundation in cementing people-to-people ties and acknowledged the immense goodwill that the activities of the Foundation have generated at people’s level on both sides.
The two Prime Ministers emphasized the advantages of cooperation at regional and sub-regional level, including BIMSTEC and SAARC.
The two Prime Ministers welcomed the successful launch of the South Asia Satellite as a unique example of regional cooperation in space sector, and an initiative that would touch the lives of people in the region through space technology applications in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting, tele-medicine, tele-education, e-governance, banking and ATM services, meteorological data transmission, disaster response and networking of academic and research institutions.
Likewise, the two Prime Ministers acknowledged that India and Nepal have been working together in the United Nations and other international fora to advance cause of common interest. The Prime Minister of Nepal reiterated Nepal's support for India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council.
Similarly, the two Prime Ministers witnessed the exchange of eight documents on MoU on Modalities for Utilization of India’s Housing Grant Component to support Reconstruction of 50,000 Houses; MoU on Implementation of the Grant Component of India’s Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Package in the Education Sector in Nepal; MoU on Implementation of the Grant Component of India’s Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Package in Cultural Heritage Sector in Nepal; MoU on Implementation of the Grant Component of India’s Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Package in the Health Sector in Nepal; Cooperation Agreement between Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) & Nepal Bureau of Standards & Metrology; MoU on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemical and Related Matters; MoU for construction of Mechi bridge and MoU between Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nepal. (Special Correspondent Yekraj Pathak), RSS
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