Friday, November 27, 2020

Nepal-India relationships rest on four pillars: Visiting Indian foreign secretary

 India’s relationship with Nepal rests on four pillars – development cooperation, stronger connectivity, expanded infrastructure and economic projects – according to visiting Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.

Shringla, who is on a two-day official visit to Nepal, during a lecture on Nepal-India relations in Kathmandu today, also said stressing the need for strong cooperative relations between the two neighboring countries, he also said that his country sees Nepal as foremost friend and development partner. “India will work to Nepal's priority.”

He also highlighted easier and enhanced access to educational opportunities in India for the young people of Nepal. “India will work to Nepal’s priorities,” he said, adding that the structure that the pillars hold up is also well-defined and unchanging – mutually beneficial people-to-people contacts. And in all this technology, particularly digital technology, is to my mind a force multiplier. “Nepal is fundamental to India’s neighborhood-first policy apart from people-to-people linkages between the two countries are strong.”

“Enhancing cross-border connectivity and infrastructure projects are also critical,” he said, adding that they unlock potential of millions and in millions. “Connectivity projects come in various forms like physical connectivity projects such as highways, rail and air links and inland waterways enhance movement of goods and people, whereas energy connectivity – whether power transmission lines or petroleum pipelines – contribute to the well-being of each other’s citizens, and build mutual trust and partnerships.”

“Digital connectivity through optical fibre networks is our route to the future, particularly, and as we find in India, with remote access to education, healthcare and other services through the digital medium,” he said. “Finally, trade facilitation through upgraded border infrastructure makes for easier transit and seamless commerce.”

“India sees itself as Nepal’s natural and instinctive responder,” the Indian foreign secretary said, while referring to India's prompt response to devastating earthquake in Nepal in 2015 that claimed nearly 10,000 lives leaving thousands injured. “India will also share the Nobel coronavirus vaccines as soon as the vaccine once it is rolled out.”

Shringla arrived Kathmandu yesterday at the invitation of his counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal. Earlier yesterday, he called on President Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. Shringla also held a delegation-level meeting with foreign secretary Paudyal yesterday afternoon. “In my meetings here in Kathmandu, with the President and the Prime Minister of Nepal, the foreign minister, and my counterpart the foreign secretary, and other dignitaries and officials, I have been left with no doubt that our countries are on the same page and share the same vision,” he informed

He also reminded the high level meetings of the leaders from both the countries. “Our Prime Minister’s visit to Nepal in August 2014 was the first at that level in 17 years,” he said, adding that the visit injected a fresh energy into the relationship and created a steady stream of two-way travel and developmental initiatives. “Over the past six years, Prime Minister Modi has visited Nepal four times and the Prime Minister of Nepal has been welcomed in India seven times, apart from the leaders have met 16 times at the level of head of state or head of government.”

He also reminded the High Impact Community Development Projects, which according to him are tailored to the needs of the local community, create community assets, and promote socio-economic welfare at the grassroots level. “Such development projects have been implemented in all 77 of Nepal’s districts and over a hundred of them have been completed since 2014 when our Prime Minister visited Nepal for the first time when he took over.”

These programmes cover diverse sectors such as education, health, irrigation, drinking water, preservation of culture, skill development, youth training, and agriculture, and have immediate and positive impact on the lives of people, touching everybody in society, added the visiting guest. 

Before wrapping his two-day visit, Shringla today afternoon travelled to Gorkha and inaugurated three schools – Shree Mahalaxmi, Shree Ratnalaxmi and Shree Tara Secondary Schools – constructed with Indian reconstruction assistance. “There are about 1600 students in these three schools, who now have the advantage of the newly constructed earthquake resilient school buildings,” according to a press note from the Indian Embassy. “These schools are part of 71 educational institutes across nine districts being built under government of India grant assistance of $50 million for reconstruction in the education sector,” it reads, adding that the nine beneficiary districts are Gorkha, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Kavrepalanchowk, Dhading and Kathmandu. 

Speaking on the occasion, Indian foreign secretary emphasised that education is the best investment in the future of the country and its people. Since 2003, government of India has built nearly 270 educational campuses across Nepal under High Impact Community Development Projects scheme, complementing the efforts of Nepal in this area. Shringla also encouraged Nepali students to take advantage of over 3000 scholarships being provided by government of India to contribute in the development of their country and to further strengthen India-Nepal partnership.

India is also working with Nepal on reconstruction of 147 health posts and hospitals in ten districts of Nepal under a grant of $ 50 million and 28 cultural heritage sites in 8 districts of Nepal under another grant of $ 50 million.

In his last engagement before leaving Nepal that also signifies the diverse bilateral development and cultural cooperation, foreign secretary Shringla virtually inaugurated the Tashop (Tare) Gompa monastery constructed at Shree Kharka village in Manang district, the press note reads, adding that the event was also attended by secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yadav Prasad Koirala, acharya Lama Norbu Sherpa, president of Nepal Buddhist Federation along with the representatives of Khangsar Sewa Samiti.

After completing his two-day official visit, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla returned to New Delhi in the late afternoon today, the press note reads.

Projects under Indian assistance

• The Motihari–Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline was the first of its kind in the region. It has created capacity to carry two million metric tonnes of petroleum products into Nepal, and has already led to savings of over Rs 800 million for the people of this country. 

• Brisk implementation of the 900 MW Arun III hydropower power project is underway, and cross-border power transmission lines have been upgraded

• The Jayanagar-Kurtha cross-border rail line should be operational shortly. It will make Janakpur so much quicker to visit from India. Tourism from India would be an important area of employment, commerce and opportunity. We want to promote it to the extent that we can.

• The modern integrated check-posts (ICP) at Birgunj and Biratnagar have transformed cross-border movement of people and goods, and work on the integrated check-posts at Nepalgunj has commenced

• After the earthquake of 2015, India cooperated with Nepal in the restoration of 30 heritage locations, including the iconic Seto Machindranath temple in Kathmandu, the Hiranyavarna Mahavihar at Patan, and the Jangam Matha at Bhaktapur. Our best domain specialists are at the service of the living history of Nepal.

• Given the young population – both in India and Nepal – education is a crucial bridge. Seventy schools and 150 health facilities are coming up in 12 districts of Nepal with Indian support. 

• The outlay of Indian earthquake-related assistance is US$ 1 billion but its true value is not in monetary terms. It lies in how it has helped communities on the ground. To cite an instance, 46,000 houses have been built in Gorkha and Nuwakot. They incorporate earthquake-resilient technologies in line with the motto of ‘Build Back Better’, and they epitomise humanity’s ability to triumph over adversity.

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