Prachanda in New Delhi to improve ties
Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, accompanied by his wife, Sita Dahal, two ministers, senior Nepal government officials, a media team and members of the Nepali business community arrived in New Delhi on 15 September 2016. Staying at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, as India’s State Guest, he was given a Guard of Honour and on the same evening he attended a reception hosted by the Embassy of Nepal.
Nepal’s Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, was already in New Delhi to prepare for this high-level visit. On 16 September, PM Dahal called on Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, attended a Ceremonial Reception, had an official meeting with Prime Minister Modi, met some senior Cabinet members of the Government of India, who called on him and paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.
On the top of the agenda is his meeting with PM Modi scheduled for Friday at the Hyderabad House which will be followed by signing some agreements and a joint press briefing.
Rishiraj Adhikari, Foreign Relations Advisor to Dahal, has reportedly conveyed that a breakthrough is expected on a long-pending agreement on Pancheshwor Hydro Project in Nepal that could generate as much as 6,720 MW of electricity. Initiated jointly by India and Nepal in 1996, it got stalled owing to some “outstanding issues”.
PM Dahal is expected to seek India’s support to build another 400 MW hydropower plant in Nepal, Adhikari added. A $1 billion soft loan and grant for the reconstruction of damaged structures in Nepal, is also expected to be discussed. A proposal for a feasibility study of east-west electric rail in Nepal, building an 80 km long Buddhist circuit linking key heritage sites between Nepal and India are also on the agenda.
Several others issues and proposals like growing trade deficit with India, construction of a substation for trading energy between Nepal and India, aid for the second phase of construction of Postal road in Nepal’s southern plain are to be discussed. Both sides are reportedly committed to reviewing and update all bilateral agreements and pacts through the Eminent Person’s Group which has already met in Kathmandu once. Dahal will also visit Himachal Pradesh to inspect one hydropower plant before his return to Nepal.
With PM Modi having made quite an impact during his August 2014 visit to Nepal, the warmth shown by New Delhi during PM Dahal’s visit and most importantly forward movement on the projects/issues addressed, India – Nepal ties may get a long overdue boost to benefit both.