Modi may visit Janakpur again, officials say

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Sep 24, 2018-

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi may visit Nepal in mid-December, his fifth to the country, to inaugurate the Janakpur-Jayanagar railway track, senior diplomatic officials have told the Post.

Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said, in a phone interview from New York, that India has proposed early inauguration of the railway. “It’s not final yet if the Indian PM will come for the inauguration but discussions are going on about a possible visit,” said Gyawali. An official at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu said talks are underway but no plans or dates have been confirmed.

Modi visited Janakpur earlier this May, during which he inaugurated the direct bus serv ice between Janakpur and the Indian city of Ayodhya. Modi had also announced Rs1 billion aid to the Province 2 government during his last visit.

Apart from inaugurating the Janakpur-Jayanagar railway line, officials told the Post he will bring “a wedding procession” from India to the Ram-Janaki Temple in Janakpur. The celebration of Bibaha Panchami, the day Ram and Sita were married, is accompanied by a symbolic wedding procession, for which Modi is expected to bring along a significant number of Indian officials and his party (BJP) leaders, which some experts see as an attempt to influence voters in northern India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, ahead of the crucial Lok Shaba elections slated for 2019.

The Janakpur-Jayanagar railway track, which was built with support from the Indian government, is scheduled to be completed by mid-October but Nepal and India have yet to finalise the modality of railway service operation.

The Department of Railway has also already announced that train wet-leased from India for the Janakpur-Jayanagar-Kurtha railway line will start this December. The department has already sought the related documents from the Indian side before signing an agreement.

A railway department official told the Post that it would recruit and train Nepali staff and “gradually phase out the Indian crew.” The broad-gauge railway line was built at a cost of Rs8.8 billion.

Published: 24-09-2018 07:41

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