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May 13, 2018-India forwarded a draft memorandum of understanding on conducting a feasibility study for the Kathmandu- Raxaul rail project soon after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrapped up his two-day state visit to Nepal on Saturday.

According to top officials, the proposed MoU includes completion of the survey of Kathmandu-Raxaul railway service within one year. The MoU was expected to be signed during Modi’s visit but it did not happen due to some differences. The prompt Indian response seems to have come from realisation of the urgency of the matter.As proposed, railway officials from Nepal and India will jointly conduct and complete the survey within one year, followed by preparation of the detailed project report and project implementation. India has agreed to build the rail link between Kathmandu and the Indian border with its own resources.

According to the joint communiqué issued on Saturday, the two prime ministers agreed to maintain the momentum generated by Oli’s visit to India in April by taking “effective measures for the implementation of all the agreements and understandings reached in the past”. They also agreed that effective implementation of the bilateral initiatives in agriculture, railway linkages and inland waterways development would transform the areas.

Expressing concern over Nepal’s growing trade deficit with India, PM Oli stressed measures to address the problem. In this context, the two prime ministers are said to have welcomed the outcome of the recently held Inter-governmental Committee meeting on Trade, Transit and Cooperation “to control unauthorised trade, to jointly initiate a comprehensive review of the bilateral Treaty of Trade, and to consider amendments to the Treaty of Transit and related Agreements with a view to further facilitating Nepal’s access to the Indian market, enhancing overall bilateral trade, and facilitating Nepal’s transit trade”. Letters to amend the Transit Treaty are planned to be exchanged soon.

The two leaders underlined the role of connectivity in stimulating economic growth and promoting people’s movement. According to the joint note, they agreed to take further steps to enhance the economic and physical connectivity by air, land, and water. The two executive chiefs directed officials to expand cooperation in civil aviation sector, including early technical discussion on additional air entry routes to Nepal by technical teams on both sides.

The two PMs are said to have reiterated the importance of advancing cooperation in water resources for mutual benefit in areas such as river training, inundation and flood control, irrigation, and enhancing the pace of implementation of ongoing bilateral projects. A joint team was formed to visit areas affected by inundation and floods and suggest measures for sustainable solution.

Prime Minister Modi visited Janakpur on Friday and Muktinath on Saturday. He also attended civic receptions in Kathmandu and Janakpur. On Saturday, he worshipped at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. With a view to further strengthening the close religious and cultural ties between the two countries and peoples, the two prime ministers launched Nepal-India Ramayana Circuit connecting Janakpur, the birthplace of Sita, with Ayodhya and other sites associated with the epic Ramayana. The inaugural direct bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya was flagged off.

Highlighting people-to-people contact, Modi talked about Sandeep Lamichhane joining the Indian Premier League for the Delhi Daredevils, stressing that there should be more cooperation in sports between the two countries.

The two leaders directed officials to address outstanding issues by September, with the objective of advancing

cooperation in all areas. It was PM Modi’s idea to sort selected outstanding issues with Nepal by September 19, the day Nepal’s constitution was promulgated in 2015, said Bishnu Rimal, chief adviser to PM Oli. As soon as Modi suggested the time-bound approach, officials privy to the negotiations said, Oli consented and instructed the foreign secretaries to review progress on weekly basis.

“Besides following up on issues discussed during our PM’s recent visit to India, both the prime ministers tried to understand each other better so that further cooperation becomes easy,” said Rimal.On regional cooperation, Saarc was not mentioned in the joint communiqué released during Oli’s India visit. But this time, the two prime ministers “underscored the importance of regional and sub-regional cooperation under BIMSTEC, SAARC, and BBIN frameworks for forging meaningful cooperation in identified sectors.”

Visit ‘successful’ and ‘historic’

At the conclusion of the Indian prime minister’s two-day state visit, the two countries said the trip was “successful” and “historic.” Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali termed Modi’s tour as “successful” and “memorable”.“The visit has been instrumental in strengthening the centuries-old bilateral ties, for effective implementation of past accords and agreements and exploring new areas of cooperation between Nepal and India,” Gyawali said after seeing off the Indian PM at the Tribhuvan International Airport.“My Nepal visit was historic. It gave me a great opportunity to connect with the wonderful people of Nepal. Talks with PM Oli were productive,” Modi commented after the visit.“New vigour has been added to India-Nepal relations through this visit,” he wrote on Twitter. “Gratitude to the people and government of Nepal for their warmth.”

Sorce : The kathmandu post

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