Back to back meetings between Modi and Oli as India works to restore ties with Nepal

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on a two-day visit to Nepal as a goodwill gesture on May 11 and 12 after Prime Minister Oli’s visit to India earlier in March.

Nepal administration sources have told India Today that while this would be a “trust building” visit by the Indian PM, both sides have come to realise the “special” relationship that the two nations share.

In another sign of the restoration of normalcy in bilateral relations between India and Nepal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Kathmandu and Janakpur on May 11, according to two Nepali officials, one Indian official and one political leader involved with planning the visit.

One senior official said, “Trust building between the two leaders and the governments came on track after PM Oli’s visit to India. This visit will only strengthen ties.”

While the two sides are moving forward on various areas of cooperation, the obvious irritants are also being addressed. One such issue is the hydro-electric projects that Nepal is constructing with Chinese help.

Although, Pankaj Jha, Associate Professor at Jindal School of International Affairs in O.P Jindal Global University thinks, “The relations between the two countries are in a state of flux and insecurity. Oil’s visit was to buttress the fact that India would be required for Nepal’s trade and development while China is the one which has promised prosperous future. Nepalese people work in India and even the older generation visit India for pilgrimage and other ceremonies. The umbilical cord between the two countries would be sustained. However, economic blockade during the Madeshi unrest created that bitterness which is still lingering. The problems of shortage of food and fuel was felt by common Nepalese people and the bitterness spilled in the newspapers and even during people to people interactions. Modi visit is meant to accelerate the rate of completion of the projects that India had promised during the last visit of Modi so that PM Modi can show the report card to Nepalese people and dispel their apprehensions bout India’s reluctance to help Nepalese people. While the first visit to Nepal was promising ,this visit would be on deliverables and looking for the outcome report. Nepalese PM Oli has also not infused confidence among the Nepalese electorate because with regard to employment the gulf countries and India would be the first port of call. China is never going to open its market for Nepalese labour.”

India maintains that it will buy electricity from Nepal only through Indo-Nepal energy projects. Speaking to a source, India Today learnt that during the Energy Secretaries meeting recently held in New Delhi, this issue came up for discussion between the two sides as “Nepal does not have any other avenues to sell the surplus electricity that will generate from these projects”, the source said.

Aside from Kathmandu, Modi is required to movement to Janakpur, a critical religious focus in the Tarai fields, near the fringe with Bihar, and where Lord Ram should have marry Sita as per the Ramayana.

An official in the Nepal government said: “We have been asked to make preparations for his (Modi’s) Janakpur visit. It has been long due.” Modi was supposed to have visited Janakpur in November 2014, when he went to Nepal to attend the SAARC summit, but this did not materialise because of objections from sections of the Nepal government. Although, Pankaj Jha, Associate Professor at Jindal School of International Affairs in O.P Jindal Global University thinks, “PM Oli visit saw intense discussion and even a public lecture during his visit. He urged the two countries –India and China to work together but the way Nepal is willing to become the surrogate state to Chinese economy is alarming and India has made it clear that Chinese products would not be allowed entry into Indian markets as already the trade balance is heavily skewed in China’s favor. India has made it clear that Nepal can seek areas and sectors of cooperation with India but with regard to trilateral cooperation there has not been much of a success story between the two countries.”

A bomb exploded on Sunday at the office of a hydroelectricity project being developed with Indian assistance in eastern Nepal, weeks before its inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an official said.

The compound wall of the 900 Megawatts (Mw) Arun III Hydroelectric Power Plant’s office in Khandbari-9, Tumlingtar, nearly 500 km from Kathmandu, was damaged in the explosion, said Siva Raj Joshi, Chief District Officer of the Sankhuwasabha district.

The project is slated to come into operation by 2020. A Project Development Agreement (PDA) for Arun III was signed with India’s state-owned Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) on November 25, 2014 in the presence of the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and visiting Indian Prime Minister Modi.

Nepal has proposed simple access to Indian markets, influencing development of merchandise over the fringe to problem free and setting up ‘isolate testing’ offices at the outskirt or in Nepal.

Nepal has additionally looked for India’s assistance in setting up seed generation focuses in Nepal. Considerable level of the seeds for horticulture is purchased from India.

There will be a noteworthy pushed on railroad availability with an emphasis on updating railroad linkages at outskirt focuses.Pankaj Jha, Associate Professor at Jindal School of International Affairs in O.P Jindal Global University thinks, “Addressing concerns related to Nepal’s outlook towards China and also highlight the fact that the building of hydropower projects, renewable energy and also infrastructure development in Nepal would remain a priority for India. Between India and Nepal more than economies it is periodic reassurance and assistance which works. India is slowly going to lose advantage of being the largest investor in Nepal and this would mean that Nepalese economy and politics would be heavily influenced by China. This might not be acceptable to India and PM Modi is going to highlight this very fact. He is going to talk fair and practical and rather than talking in ”either’/” or” terms he is going to make clear that India and Nepal are brothers while China is a neighbour who is acting as a friend.”

Inland water navigation will constitute a major part of the discussions on waterways. While rivers are yet to be identified, river Kosi, Gandaki and Karnali are being considered.

Curiously, Prime Minister Modi will be in Nepal that day Karnataka goes to surveys. The optics on May 12 could be genuinely imperative. Modi will visit Janakpur, which he wished to see in 2014 yet proved unable. The odds of him going by the well known Hindu journey site Muktinath are additionally on the cards.

In the interim, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Sigh Puri met Lal Babu Raut, the Chief Minister of Province no 2 in Janakpur on Sunday and had exchange about the arrangement of the visit where Modi will presented a city gathering in the city.

He is planned to visit Janakpur, a city found 135 kilometers southeast of Kathmandu and acclaimed as the origin of Sita, the spouse of Lord Rama.

PM Modi, who will address the general population there, will be congratulated in Janakpur.

Sources say the Nepalese Prime Minister will likewise talk about holding the SAARC Summit which was drop in 2016 after the Uri assault did by Pakistan. The 20th SAARC Summit is to be held in Pakistan. Nepal is the chair, and sources say that Nepal only “wishes that the summit will take place this year”.

Before Modi, it was Indian Prime Minister IK Gujral who had visited Nepal in June 1997. Modi visited Nepal from November 25 to 27 in 2014 for the second time. Former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Kathmandu in 2001, but his visit was for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.

An interlocutor involved in backchannel talks, who asked not to be named, said: “India has to engage with the elected government of Nepal. Oli has said categorically he will not allow Nepali soil to be used against Indian interests. His India visit was successful and interactions here went well. By paying a reciprocal visit, Modi wants to maintain the momentum in ties and truly put past differences behind us.” Although, Pankaj Jha, Associate Professor at Jindal School of International Affairs in O.P Jindal Global University thinks, “ As discussed the primary areas of cooperation would be water sharing , outlining defined timelines for BBIN network, working on renewables and setting up pharma and other related industries in Nepal. PM Modi is also going to meet different stakeholders and even political parties to make is sure that India is not projected as a hegemon and an evil power.”