02/24/2016, 14.14
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Kathmandu and Delhi sign agreement “on equal footing” for post-earthquake reconstruction

by Christopher Sharma

Prime Ministers Oli and Modi sign a seven-point agreement that includes a new transmission line, funds to rebuild quake-damaged homes and roads, cooperation between arts academies, and new road infrastructure. A group of experts will vet ways to mend relations damaged by India’s embargo.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The governments of Nepal and India signed a seven-point agreement to rebuild Nepal following last year’s devastating earthquake.

Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inked the deal in Delhi during their first face-to-face meeting, thus opening a new era in relations between the two countries, divided in recent months over Nepal’s Constitution which led to an embargo on goods exported from India.

As announced on the eve of the visit, the two leaders addressed only economic issues, since the Nepali prime minister received precise instructions from his cabinet: no Indian interference in Nepali domestic affairs.

Prime Minister Oli, who today ended his six-day state visit that began on 19 February, signed nine agreements and Letters of Exchange with Modi as part of the seven-point agreement.

The latter covers a wide range of bilateral issues, including energy trade, transit facilities, cultural exchanges as well as road construction and post-earthquake reconstruction support.

However, most of the agreements are not new; they are the continuation and execution of previous pledges between the two sides.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on the utilisation of a US$ 250 million grant as part of a billion dollar pledge India had made for the reconstruction of Nepal’s infrastructures after the earthquake at the donors' conference in Kathmandu in June. The money was never paid.

About US$ 100 million will be used to build 50,000 houses in 14 districts severely affected by the earthquake. Around US$ 50 million will be used for each of the following sectors – health, education and cultural heritage – in 31 quake-affected districts of Nepal.

Another signed MoU related to road infrastructure in the Tarai region will speed up the completion of the remaining part of a postal highway, whose construction had been stopped for years.

The Nepal Academy of Music and Drama, and India’s Sangeet Natak Academy signed a MoU to enhance cooperation in the field of arts through exchanges of experts, dancers, scholars and intellectuals.

Two Letters of Exchange on transit routes were signed to simplify the movement of goods between Nepal and Bangladesh through India.

The two prime ministers also inaugurated the 400 kV Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line to supply Indian electricity to Nepal under an Indian credit line of US$ 13.5 million. Thus, Nepal will get 80 MW power immediately, which will be increased to 200 MW by October this year.

Finally, the two countries announced the names of an eight-member Eminent Persons Group, four for each country, with a mandate to review and enhance bilateral relations against the backdrop of Indian dissatisfaction with Nepal’s new course.

“Our team will work out all the dissatisfaction and provide advice for better relations on an equal footing,” said Nilambar Acharya, a former Nepali Justice minister and a member of the new body.

“As both countries are sovereign, we will focus on mutual respect and work for mutual benefits."

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