India woos Nepal PM with rly link to claw back ground from China
India is likely to offer Nepal’s new prime minister help building an east-west railway line and better access to its ports on his first visit this week, as it tries to regain ground lost recently to China.
Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda, a former Maoist rebel commander, has chosen New Delhi as his first foreign stop, seeking to rebalance ties that chilled under his pro-China predecessor, KP Sharma Oli. Oli had sealed trade deals that sought to reduce landlocked Nepal’s economic dependence on India.
“Relations with India have become frosty for some time. I want to remove the bitterness,” Prachanda said on Tuesday evening in Kathmandu, adding India now “wants to help Nepal, which is in difficulties.”
Nepal has yet to complete a political transition after a decade-long insurgency and weeks of deadly street protests that brought down the monarchy nearly a decade ago. A new republican Constitution is still a source of rancour for southern plains people who mounted a five-month border blockade that ended earlier this year.
The country’s last government said the fuel and trade embargo had the tacit backing of India – a charge New Delhi has denied. Prachanda said, on his four-day trip starting Thursday, the two sides would discuss the railway line stretching from Mechi in east Nepal to Mahakali in the west that India will help build.
An Indian railway official said the project that runs parallel to Nepal’s 1,030km (640-mile) east-west highway has been talked about in the past, but that the two countries are now discussing financial terms.
“The plan is to push forward immediately with this project. It’s a big development project,” said the official involved in preparations for the visit. The mountainous country has only one short rail line from Jaynagar on the Indian border to Janakpur.