In what can be seen as a series of steps to mend their ties, India and Nepal on Saturday agreed to boost trade and economic links, connectivity via air, land and water, people-to-people ties, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declaring that his country will work like a sherpa in the Himalayan nation's development endeavours.A joint statement, issued a day after Indian Prime Modi and his Nepali counterpart K.P. Sharma Oli held extensive bilateral discussions here, said the two leaders agreed to maintain the momentum generated by Oli's visit to India in April, his first foreign visit after assuming office in February, 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, as agreed upon by the two sides during the recent visit of Prime Minister Oli to India, would have transformational impact in these areas," it stated."While reviewing the close and multifaceted relations between the two countries at different levels, the two Prime Ministers reiterated their resolve to work together to take bilateral relations to newer heights by strengthening ongoing cooperation in diverse spheres as well as expanding partnership for socio-economic development on the basis of the principles of equality, mutual trust, respect and mutual benefit."
"The two Prime Ministers underscored the importance of trade and economic ties between India and Nepal," it said.Oli, while expressing concern over Nepal's growing trade deficit with India, stated that measures to address this deficit need to be taken."In this context, the two Prime Ministers 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," the statement said.Both leaders also "underlined the catalytic role of connectivity in stimulating economic growth and promoting movement of people"."They agreed to take further steps to enhance the economic and physical connectivity by air, land, and water," the statement said."Recognising the vibrant people to people contacts and friendly bilateral ties, the two Prime Ministers directed the respective officials to expand cooperation in civil aviation sector, including early technical discussion on additional air entry routes to Nepal by respective technical teams."
The joint statement assumes significance given that there was a chill in India-Nepal ties during Oli's earlier stint as Prime Minister between October 2015 and August 2016 when a border blockade blamed on New Delhi crippled Nepal's economy.There were also perceptions that Oli was leaning towards China than India.Addressing a civic reception held in his honour here on Saturday, Modi said that India is ready to become sherpa for the development endeavors of Nepal."India is ready to assist Nepal in all ways in its development," he said."Juts as a sherpa extends support for climbers to climb Mt Everest, India will do the same to Nepal."Highlighting the deep rooted ties between India and Nepal, Modi said that the Himalayan nation was a top priority for India's Neighbourhood First Policy. He also complimented Nepal for its commitment towards democracy and success.Apart from offering prayers at temples in Nepal during the course of his two-day visit that started on Friday, Modi inaugurated the Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service, a 900 MW hydropower project and announced Rs 100-crore aid to develop Janakpur city.Apart from Oli, the Indian leaders also held discussions with Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and other government officials to better bilateral ties after which he said: "All misunderstandings with Nepal are over."Earlier on Saturday, Modi also met leaders of opposition parties, starting with former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other members of the Nepali Congress.He exchanged views on strengthening bilateral ties with former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda".This was the Indian leader's third official visit to Nepal after assuming office in 2014.