As the impending visit of the newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s draws closer, speculations have run high about its outcome. Going by what officials said recently, the visit could mark a milestone in the bilateral relations. According to Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, Nepal could expect a major announcement of assistance. He told finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat that Modi was expected to announce a huge economic package for Nepal based on the latter’s need.
Nepal has not spelt out yet on what exactly it expects from such a package. But finance minister Mahat said, hydropower projects, Kathmandu-Terai Fast Track road, Postal Highway, Mahakali Bridge and a cricket academy would be Nepal's priority on seeking Indian assistance . The Indian side appears to be positive. According to ambassador Rae, Power Development Agreement with Nepal on Upper Karnali, Upper Marsyangdi and Arun III hydro-electricity projects as well as the construction of cricket academy would be taken up during the PM’s visit.
The predominantly Hindu outfit's flamboyant leader Modi’s visit, ostensibly for paying homage to holy Pashupatinath, will be preceded by his foreign minister Sushma Swaraj's.
Having earlier travelled to the neighbouring Bangladesh on her first leg of the regional tour to the Indian Minister of External Affairs is expected to arrive at the end of July. The visit, which is in line with Modi’s approach of strengthening ties with India's South Asian neighbours, will see Swaraj leading the Indian delegation in the Nepal-India Joint Commission (JC) meeting which has not taken place for quite a long time.
The JC is a bilateral mechanism to oversee the entire gamut of Nepal-India relations and provide directives on measures to further strengthen these relations. It was formed in 1987 in a bid to further consolidate the relations between Nepal and India for the mutual benefit of people of both countries at the Foreign Minister’s level. Though it was to be held every alternate year, the meeting could not convene for twenty-two years owing to various reasons.
Now after almost two decades the JC meeting is expected to receive a new lease of life and add momentum to Nepal-India relations by laying grounds for enhanced cooperation under the new government in India Modi. According to authorities, issues like water resource development, trade and transit, cooperation in controlling unauthorized trade, industrial and economic cooperation, and cooperation in the field of agriculture, agro-based industries are expected to constitute the JC agenda this time.
As the Modi government has expressed great interest in strengthening its relations with South Asian neighbours, meetings such as these are expected to expedite mutual cooperation.