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Indian foreign secretary arriving next week to discuss India-funded projects and regional issues

  • Amid growing tension with Pakistan, India could seek Nepal’s firm commitment on combating terrorism, a Foreign Ministry official says
- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Mar 22, 2019-

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale is arriving in Kathmandu on March 28 for a two-day visit during which he will hold delegation level discussions with Nepali officials on a wide range of bilateral issues, including the India-funded projects in Nepal.

Foreign Secretary Bairagi said that he and Gokhale would discuss several bilateral issues, assess India-funded projects in Nepal and make a comprehensive review and status of implementation of various projects announced during the visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to India and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two visits to Nepal.

Gokhale is visiting Nepal at a time when India-funded projects in Nepal have yielded mixed results.

His visit is also particularly noteworthy for it comes amid growing tension between India and Pakistan, according to an official at the Foreign Ministry.

During his trip, Gokhale is expected to seek Nepal’s firm commitment and position on combating terrorism.

The meeting is also taking place in the backdrop of the stalled Foreign Minister Level Joint Commission’s meeting. The meeting, which was supposed to take place in February, has been pushed back due to the Indian elections. While in Nepal, Gokhale will meet Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali and other senior government officials.

This is a follow-up meeting of three back-to-back visits exchanged by Oli and Modi, so the talks will most likely be centered on India-funded projects, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry told the Post.

For smooth execution of the India-funded projects in Nepal, during the state visit of Pushpa Kamal Dahal to India in 2016 September, Nepal and India had formed an Oversight Mechanism headed by foreign secretary and Indian ambassador to Nepal to clear the bottlenecks, but its meeting has not been taking place on a regular basis.

During Modi’s visit to Nepal in 2018 May, the two sides had set the deadline of September 19 to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues between the two countries.

To this end, the foreign secretaries from the two countries have been holding weekly video conference to monitor and evaluate the status of the India-funded projects in Nepal.

Several bilateral pending issues have been resolved since the deadline was set, officials said.

Issues like amending bilateral Trade and Transit, inland water navigation, removing Indian filed office from Biratnagar, inundation in border settlements, movement of bulk cargo from Indian seaports to additional three Nepali border points, providing access to two additional Indian sea ports, cross-border energy guidelines and initial survey of Kathmandu-Raxaul Railway have been addressed since last May.

The two countries have also agreed to set up a dedicated energy banking facilities to address the issue of purchase and selling of the power from dedicated transmission line.

But there are still some projects that have failed to make the expected strides, said officials. Issues related to boundaries between the two countries, exchanging banned Indian currency notes parked in various Nepali banks, and granting licences to Nepali gas bullets remain unresolved.

Neither Nepali nor Indian officials have explained when these issues would be addressed. Officials from both sides told the Post while there has been some positive progress towards addressing these outstanding issues, it is almost impossible to provide concrete results within the deadline since a large numbers of India-funded projects are facing stalemate.

The officials said there has been a significant progress on the Arun III Hydroelectric Project, but the Upper Karnali Hydroelectric Project, developed by GMR Energy, is not making desired progress due to financial crunch.

India and Nepal have also repeatedly failed to reach a consensus on expediting the Pancheshwor Multipurpose Project and on approving its development modality that is part of the Mahakali Treaty.

India recently offered to develop the project in a new way, but the proposal is yet to be discussed.

Nepal and India are also yet to conclude negotiations on the use of Indian soft loan of US $750 million for post-earthquake reconstruction and the US$ 1 billion line of credit announced during Modi’s Nepal visit n 2014.

Senior Chinese official discuss China-funded projects with PM

Vice Director of China International Development Cooperation Agency Deng Boqing held a meeting with Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and discussed the status of China-funded projects in Nepal on Thursday.

During the meeting, several China-funded projects, including the opening of the Tatopani entry point and the maintenance of Araniko Highway, construction of a national stadium, civil hospital project and reconstruction of the quake-damaged heritage were discussed.

Expansion of the second phase of Kathmandu Ring Road Project, reconstruction of the Durbar High School and Patan High School— all of them funded by the Chinese government— also figured in the meeting, according to the officials.

Other China-funded projects like Pokhara Regional Airport, Upper Trishuli Hydroelectricity Project and Kathmandu Drinking Water Project among others were also discussed in the meeting.

Published: 22-03-2019 07:21

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