India, Nepal agree to tackle boundary dispute amicably; ink raft of pacts to broad-base ties
The ties between the two countries came under severe strain after Kathmandu published a new political map in 2020 that showed three Indian territories as part of Nepal.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart Pushpakamal Dahal 'Prachanda' on Thursday vowed to resolve the vexed boundary dispute in the spirit of friendship even as the two sides signed several major pacts including one on increasing New Delhi's import of power from the neighbouring country to 10,000 megawatt in the next 10 years from the current 450 megawatt.
In the wide-ranging talks between Modi and Prachanda, the Indian side agreed to the first trilateral power trade from Nepal to Bangladesh through India for up to 40 megawatt of power, a move that is seen as a significant step towards ensuring greater regional cooperation.
In his media statement, Modi said both sides will continue to strive in taking the India-Nepal partnership to the "Himalayan heights" and that the important decisions taken at the talks are to make the ties 'superhit' in the future.
In total, the two sides signed seven pacts which included a revised treaty of transit that was described by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra as "once in a generation kind of an agreement" as it would provide Nepal access to inland waterways of India for the first time and expected to contribute very significantly to the expansion of trade and investment linkages.
The two sides also firmed up several new initiatives to expand cooperation in areas of hydroelectric power, petroleum infrastructure, railway connectivity, cross-border payment systems and trade and investment as part of a futuristic approach to strengthen the overall trajectory of ties.
"We will continue to strive to take our relationship to Himalayan heights. And in this spirit, we will solve all the issues, whether it is of boundary or any other issue," Modi said in his media statement in presence of Prachanda.
In his comments, the Nepalese prime minister, who arrived here on Wednesday on a four-day visit to India, said he and Modi discussed the boundary matter. "I urge prime minister Modi-ji to resolve the boundary matter through the established bilateral diplomatic mechanism," he said.
The ties between the two countries came under severe strain after Kathmandu published a new political map in 2020 that showed three Indian territories -- Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh -- as part of Nepal.
India reacted sharply, calling it a "unilateral act" and cautioned Kathmandu that such "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it.
Asked at a media briefing about the boundary dispute, Foreign Secretary Kwatra referred to the comments by the two prime ministers and said they not only speak of the intent of the two leaders and the two systems, but they also speak about the specifics through which they intend this to be carried forward.
To a question on whether the China factor figured in the talks, he said the discussions also covered broader developments and challenges and how the two countries should cooperate to mitigate them.
"I remember, that nine years ago, in 2014, within three months of taking charge in office, I made my first visit to Nepal.
At that time, I had given a 'HIT' formula for India-Nepal relations, HIT -- Highways, I-ways, and Trans-ways," he said.
Modi further added: "Today, after nine years, I am happy to say that our partnership has truly been a 'hit'. In the last nine years, we have accomplished many achievements in various fields."
The prime minister also referred to the religious and cultural ties between India and Nepal, saying they are very old and very strong.
"In order to further strengthen this beautiful link, Prime Minister Prachanda ji and I have decided that the projects related to the Ramayana circuit should be expedited," he said.
Following the talks, Modi and Prachanda remotely unveiled the Kurtha-Bijalpura section of the railway line, virtually flagged off a cargo train from Bathnaha (India) to Nepal Customs Yard and inaugurated Integrated Checkposts (ICPs) at Nepalgunj in Nepal and Rupaidiha on the Indian side.
They also remotely joined the groundbreaking ceremonies for ICPs at Bhairahawa (Nepal) and Sonauli (India), phase-II facilities under the Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline as well as kick-start the project for the construction of the Indian portion of Gorakhpur-Bhutwal transmission line.
"Last year we adopted a landmark vision document for cooperation in the power sector. Taking this forward, a long-term power trade agreement has been signed between India and Nepal today. Under this, we have set a target of importing 10,000 MW of electricity from Nepal in the coming ten years," Modi said.
At present, India imports around 450 MW of power from Nepal.
Talking about the transit agreement, Modi said along with new rail routes, provision has also been made for the facility of India's inland waterways.
Modi also referred to the landmark vision document adopted by India and Nepal on the power sector.
"Taking this forward, a long-term Power Trade Agreement has been signed between India and Nepal today. Under this Agreement, we have set a target of importing 10,000 MW of electricity from Nepal in the coming 10 years," he said.
"Cooperation in the power sector has been further strengthened by agreements on the Phukot-Karnali and Lower Arun Hydro-Electric projects," he said.
In his remarks, Modi also touched upon cooperation in the petroleum infrastructure sector.
"In view of the positive impact of the Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum pipeline, it has been decided to take this pipeline up to Chitwan. Besides this, another new pipeline will also be constructed from Siliguri to Jhapa in eastern Nepal," he added.
"Simultaneously, new storage terminals will also be set up at Chitwan and Jhapa. We have also agreed on mutual cooperation to set up a fertilizer plant in Nepal," Modi said.
According to Kwatra, India decided to fund three major transmission corridors in Nepal under the line of credit support of about USD 680 million.
In his comments, Prachanda said he and Modi carried out an "extensive review" of the progress in the ties and renewed their commitment to further strengthen the relations and cooperation.
The Nepalese prime minister said he appreciated Modi's "neighbourhood first policy."
"The relations between Nepal and India are age-old and multi-faceted. This relationship stands on the solid foundation built on one hand by the rich tradition of civilisational, cultural and socio-economic linkage and on the other by the firm commitment of the two countries to the time-tested principle of sovereign equality, mutual respect, understanding and cooperation," he said.
He said the two sides discussed ways to further strengthen cooperation in diverse areas including trade, transit, investment, hydro-power, power trade, irrigation, power transmission line, expansion of petroleum pipeline, construction of integrated check post and land and air connectivity.
"We are happy to see the remarkable transformation of India's economic and development landscape under the able leadership of PM Modi. I congratulate PM Modi on the completion this week of nine years in government with far-reaching achievement on many fronts," Prachanda said.
In a tweet later, Modi described his talks with Prachanda as "productive."
"PM @cmprachanda and I had productive talks on the progress in India-Nepal relations over the last few years and ways to deepen this cooperation even further. Key sectors like commerce, energy, culture and infrastructure featured prominently in the discussions," he said.
Nepal is important for India in the context of its overall strategic interests in the region, and the leaders of the two countries have often noted the age-old "Roti Beti" relationship.
The country shares a border of over 1850 km with five Indian states - Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Land-locked Nepal relies heavily on India for the transportation of goods and services.
Nepal's access to the sea is through India, and it imports a predominant proportion of its requirements from and through India.
The India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 forms the bedrock of the special relations between the two countries.