Modi visit to ink railway and waterways pacts

May 10, 2018

Anil Giri, The Kathmandu Post, 10 May 2018

An agreement on waterways navigation on Kosi River will be announced during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third visit to Nepal, starting tomorrow.

According to officials familiar with PM Modi’s State Visit, India and Nepal would reach an understanding on inland water navigation on Kosi River.

The officials are working on the draft of the joint communiqué that would be released on Friday evening after delegation level talks between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Modi.

A team of India’s Inland Water Navigation Authority will conduct a feasibility study for waterway navigation in Koshi River. The Indian team will conduct survey for inland water navigation from Kosi River to Kalughat in the Indian state of Bihar.

India has informed that the nearest shipment point is Kalughat, Bihar. It would be ready within a year and there is a great scope for Nepal and India on this route.The Indian study would reveal what size of ships or steamer or vessels could ferry goods and passengers via this route. Both countries have agreed to amend the Treaty of Transit so that water navigation can start.Nepal and India had agreed to inland water navigation during PM Oli’s visit to India in April. As per the broader understanding, some specific agreements would be made during Modi’s visit, officials said.

Regarding railway project, the Indian Railway authorities would conduct a survey of Kathmandu-Raxaul railway route, as agreed during PM Oli’s visit. The two parties are likely to sign a memorandum of understanding during Modi’s visit.

On agriculture, while agreeing on partnership in this sector, the first meeting of agriculture ministers of Nepal and India would be announced. It would set Nepal’s priorities on seeking Indian expertise in agriculture.

India has also hinted that PM Modi is likely to announce a project related to urban infrastructure of Kathmandu City after receiving the civic reception on Saturday at Rastriya Sabha Griha.During the delegation level talks, old issues like the border problem, inundation, demonetised Indian bank notes, the widening trade gap with India, issue of energy co-operation, increasing air routes, and follow-up on the agenda of PM’s visit to India in April.

“We hope India delivers what it had promised in the past and recently during PM Oli’s visit. We want the execution of India funded projects at the earliest,” said a Nepali official privy to the discussion.India agreed to dispatch a joint inspection team to visit the inundated areas created by Indian embankments. India has hinted it would raise issues like security of its entities and India-funded projects in Nepal, and the delays in implementing projects in Nepal.

During the visit, apart from paying courtesy call on the President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun, Modi will also meet with top leaders of the major political parties including some Madhes based leaders.

All three delegation level talks, joint media briefing and dinner hosted by PM Oli for the visiting Indian delegation are planned at Dwarika’s Hotel. Both the PMs will remotely lay foundation of Arun III hydroelectricity project developed India’s SJVN.