Nepal at top of India's Neighbourhood First policy: Modi
11 May 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today assured Nepal that it is at the top of India's Neighbourhood First policy as he announced a Rs100-crore package to develop Janakpur – a sacred city for Hindus - while invoking historical religious links between the two countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a civic reception in Janakpur, Nepal, on 11 May 2018
Speaking at a civic reception by the Janakpur Sub-Metropolitan City, Modi briefly spoke in Nepali and Maithili.
He began his address by chanting "Jay Siya Ram" three times. Janakpur is known as the birth place of Sita, the wife of Lord Rama.
In a speech that invoked mythological references and symbolism, Modi said he has come to Janakpur not as the Prime Minister but a pilgrim, amid applause.
Modi, who is on his third visit to Nepal since assuming office in 2014, read out a verse from Ramcharitmanas, which says 'one cannot remain isolated from the suffering of a friend and a true friend always helps his friend in the time of suffering.'
Modi will today also formally launch Nepal's biggest hydroelectric project, being built by an Indian company, as he seeks to regain ground in the Himalayan republic where China has made deep inroads.
Modi, with his counterpart K P Sharma Oli, will lay a foundation of the 900 MW hydro-power project via remote control from Kathmandu.
The hydro project, which is expected to cost $1.04 billion and is being built by state-run Indian firm Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Ltd, will be the single biggest foreign investment project in cash-strapped Nepal.
"Whenever there has been a problem, India and Nepal have stood together. We have been there for each other in the most difficult of times," said Modi, whose voice appeared hoarse apparently due to his hectic campaign for Karnataka assembly elections.
Modi’s visit has evoked rather mixed reactions in a country that often sees India as having a big brother attitude, especially after the recent economic blockade over the Madhesi issue that starved the country of oil.
Modi is visiting for the first time since protests for a greater say in government by ethnic Madhesis, in Nepal's lowland south, led to the closure of the border for months in 2015 and 2016. The blockade choked off Nepal's imports of fuel, medicine and construction material just as it was struggling to recover from the worst earthquake on record in which 9,000 people were killed.
India has also been slow to implement projects despite ambitious plans, while China is pouring aid and investment for hospitals, roads and hydroelectric plants.
Modi announced that the Rs100 crore package for the development of Janakpur and its surrounding areas will be spent on different development projects forging collaboration between the central government and the local government of Province No. 2.
Modi, who earlier with his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli jointly inaugurated a direct bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya — two sacred cities for Hindus — said he was happy to link Janakpur with Ramayan Circuit.
"This circuit will develop religious tourism. It also will strengthen connectivity between the two nations," Modi said.
He also announced that two other circuits will also be developed for the promotion of the areas related to Buddhism and Jain religion in both Nepal and India, which will be instrumental in generating employment for the youth.
Modi said Nepal and India can benefit if they cooperate and work together for the promotion of five Ts: Tradition, Trade, Tourism, Technology and Transport. He underlined the need for linking Nepal and India through highway, I-way or information highway, railway, transway or electric connectivity, waterway and airway.
"We are also trying our best to connect Nepal with waterways so that Nepal will be able to export Nepali goods abroad. If done so Nepal will be able to reap benefits through international trade," Modi said.
"Nepal and India relations were started during the rule of King Janak in Tretya Yuga and the bondage built by Sita during the period is still strong. It is this bondage which attracts people from Rameswaram to Pashupatinath, people from Lumbini to Bodhgaya and I was also attracted with the same bondage," Modi said.
Modi said India will build a railway link between Raxaul in Bihar and Kathmandu to facilitate people-to-people contact and movement of goods.
Nepal's defence minister Ishwor Pokharel welcomed Prime Minister Modi at the function. Modi was wearing a Maithili kurta gifted by Prime Minister Oli.
He expressed the confidence that the people to people relations between the two countries are being nurtured on the basis of brotherhood and equality.