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By Shirish B Pradhan
Kathmandu, May 11 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said India supports a "united, prosperous and strong" Nepal as he strongly backed his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Olis vision to transform the land-locked Himalayan nation into a land- and water-linked country.
Modi made the remarks at a joint press meet after a one-on-one meeting with Oli which was followed by marathon delegation-level talks during which the two sides had extensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship.
"India supports a united, prosperous and strong Nepal," Modi asserted after Oli in his remarks said that Nepals desire is to create a strong relationship underpinned by mutual trust so that it is not affected by any "occasional or intermittent differences that are natural between neighbours."
Oli was apparently referring to the strain in bilateral ties after the adoption of a new Constitution by Nepal in 2015 that divided Nepal into seven provincial units and marginalised Madhesis, who are largely of Indian-origin and inhabitants of the Terai.
The move triggered a six-month-long agitation, from September 2015 to February 2016, during Olis first tenure in which more than 50 people were killed. The agitation had also crippled the land-locked countrys economy as supplies from India were blocked.
"Prime Minister Modi and I have just concluded bilateral talks on the entire gamut of our relationship in an atmosphere of warm and cordiality that characterises the deep friendship and understanding between our two countries," Oli said, adding that the two sides have agreed to address "all matters" by September 19 - Nepals Constitution Day.
"We reiterated our firm commitment to take our relations forward on the basis of equality, mutual trust, respect and benefit. Relations between neighbours are different from that of others. Neighbourhood constitutes top priority in our foreign policy," he said.
Prime Minister Modi responded by saying that this was his third visit to Nepal since assuming office in 2014 and it shows his governments "deep commitment" to further strengthen ties with Nepal.
Noting that Nepals people have chosen Oli-led government for economic and social prosperity and for nation building, Modi said he supports Olis vision to transform Nepal from a land-locked country to a water- and land- linked nation.
"We are committed to support Prime Minister Olis vision that Nepal should not be a land-locked country but a land- and water-linked nation," he said.
"In our todays talks, we discussed the initiatives started between the two countries in agriculture, inland waterways, and railways. These will enhance the mutual connectivity between the people and trade of the two countries. In inland waterways, our cooperation is very important," Modi said.
The Prime Minister said the agricultural ministers of the two sides will soon meet and start work on a road map for agriculture research, agricultural education and agriculture development.
Modi also hailed the three successful polls in Nepal after the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2015.
"I am visiting Nepal at a very special time, when elections have been successfully conducted here at federal, provincial and local levels. India stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Nepal," Modi said.
Nepal conducted two-phased parliamentary and provincial assembly elections in November and December 2017. The country also held local elections in three phases last year.
Modi, who jointly with Oli laid the foundation stone of the 900-megawatt Arun III Hydroelectric Power Plant in Tumlingtar area in eastern Nepal through a remote system here, said it was one of the biggest projects in Nepal and generate jobs. He said India would invest Rs 6,000 crores in the project.
Nepal is currently facing shortage of power and the production of hydropower from the project will mainly serve its domestic demands.
The Prime Minister also said that India would install a Bhabhatron radiation therapy machine in Kathmandus cancer hospital.
Modi, who earlier with his Nepalese counterpart Oli jointly inaugurated a direct bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya - the two sacred cities for Hindus, said the Ramayan Circuit and Buddha Circuit will encourage religious tourism.
He arrived in Kathmandu today after a brief halt in Janakpur where he offered prayers at the famed 20th century Janaki temple and attended a civic reception. PTI SBP/CPS ZH AKJ ZH ZH
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