Indian, Nepal focus on railway line to Kathmandu

Sandeep Dikshit

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 15

India and Nepal kept aside their political differences to focus on bilateral cooperation including a railway line to Kathmandu, a second oil pipeline and expansion of the recently commissioned one, a fourth integrated check-post, and two more cultural heritage projects in Nepal.

Nepal also requested India for early provision of vaccines at the sixth India-Nepal Joint Commission meeting chaired by Foreign Ministers S Jaishankar and Pradeep Gyawali here on Friday.

The delegations also included Foreign Secretaries Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Bharat Raj Paudyal.

The Joint Commission comprehensively reviewed all aspects of multifaceted cooperation between the two countries and explored ways to further strengthen the traditionally close and friendly ties, read an MEA statement.

Both sides discussed several areas of cooperation, including in connectivity, economy and trade, power, oil and gas, water resources, political and security issues, border management, development partnership, tourism, culture, education and capacity building.

The significant and concrete progress made since the last meeting of the Joint Commission in taking forward several bilateral initiatives was also acknowledged.

After the successful operation of the first trans-boundary Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum products pipeline, the two sides discussed the expansion of the pipeline to Chitwan and a new pipeline on the eastern side connecting Siliguri to Jhapa in Nepal.

Following the completion of the work on the first trans-border passenger railway line from Jaynagar to Kurtha, other similar projects, including a possible Raxaul-Kathmandu broad gauge railway line, were also discussed.

After the recently-inaugurated integrated check posts at Birgunj and Biratnagar, a third one is being constructed at Nepalgunj and a new check post at Bhairhwa would be initiated shortly.

Discussions were also held on expediting joint hydropower projects, including the proposed Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project.

India has agreed to undertake two more cultural heritage projects in Nepal – the Pashupatinath Riverfront Development and the Bhandarkhal Garden Restoration in Patan Durbar.

The contentious boundary issue was not aired in keeping with Indian wishes. On Thursday, the MEA had made it clear that the JCM and boundary talks were separate mechanisms.

Relations between Nepal and India, which had briefly started looking up, slid due to a cartographic war after New Delhi published a new map, including Kalapani within its territory in November 2019. Seven months later, India opened a road link via Lipulekh to Kailash Mansarovar, and in retaliation Nepal published a political map showing Kalapani and Lipulekh as its territory.

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