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Transcript of Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary on the visit of Prime Minister of Nepal

April 08, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Good afternoon everyone and a very warm welcome to the special briefing on the visit of Prime Minister of Nepal to India.I have with me in the Foreign Secretary of India as well Ambassador of India to Nepal and Jt. Secretary (North), Shri Sudhakar Dalela. We will start with briefing by Foreign Secretary and as and when required our Ambassador and Jt. Secretary will pitch in. Just to announce that we have uploaded two documents. One is the press statement by our Prime Minister and we are also uploading the joint statement on our website.Now we will start with the statement by the Foreign Secretary.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.The Prime Minister of Nepal Shri KPS Oli is on an official visit to India.This is his first bilateral visit after taking office and it is his second visit to India as the Prime Minister.He has come with a very high-level delegation comprising several ministers.The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Industry, Commerce andSupplies and the Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transport.But it is also significant that he hascome with a team of members of Parliament representing all the political parties in Nepal as well as, of course, a business delegation.

Our Rashtrapatiji invited the Prime Minister and his spouse to stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and during the various meetings including the meeting that the Prime Minister Oli had with RashtrapatiJi he expressed his appreciation at this very special gesture that has been made by the Government of India.

Very briefly to go over the program elements.He was received by the Home Minister at the airport yesterday on arrival and he then had a business interaction with industry leaders. Prime Minister Oli himself remarked both at the quality of the interaction that he had with the business community and at the level of participation by the business community from India and during the various meetings he had he then spoke about how he was providing assurance to Indian companies,private-sector as well as public sector, about the ease of doing business in Nepal, about how investments can be protected in Nepal and encouraging them to come and invest in Nepal.

So over all the business engagement from his perspective was very satisfactory one.Yesterday he also had a meeting with the Prime Minister and this morning after the ceremonial welcome he called on Rashtrapati Ji this morning.As you know the Hon’ble President of India is on a state visit to three African countries and therefore the meeting was scheduled before the meeting with the Prime Minister.

At the meeting with the Prime Minister, rather following the meeting with the Prime Minister two important inaugurations were done through a video link.One is the Integrated Check Post at Birgunj which is a very important aspect of connectivity and the other was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross border petroleum products pipeline.And both Prime Ministers expressed a lot of satisfaction at the virtual inauguration of these two projects. Prime Minister Oli of course along with our Prime Minister has made the press statements thereafter.

This afternoon after this press briefing he will be meeting the Hon’ble Vice President of India and then he goes tomorrow to the GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology in Pantnagar, before leaving for Kathmandu late tomorrow evening.

Briefly I thought I will the substance of the discussion because this is, in a sense, from the perspective of Nepal a very historic visit after a long period, a decade of a constitution making. Nepal has completed the process of election and a stable government has been formed there and this is his first visit after that. Prime Minister Oli essentially said this and I use is words, he said the phase of political struggle in Nepal is over.A democracy has been established, the process of elections which dominated in 2017 is over and Nepal has entered, in his words, into a new era of stability.Economic development is as priority and in this he looks for support and cooperation from India as a neighbor and a friend.

This was in his conversation with our Rashtrapatiji early this morning subsequently again during the discussions with the Prime Minister he again reiterated that he greatly appreciated the gesture made by the Prime Minister in sending our External Affairs Minister to Kathmandu after the election but before the formation of the government.He said he attaches great importance to this relationship and that he wanted to make it a model relationship.

Prime Minister of course congratulated him on his decisive electoral mandate.He said that the people of Nepal have high expectations from this government.He expressed appreciation for the fact that India had been chosen as the first destination for a foreign visit after his swearing in as the Prime Minister. And our Prime Minister also expressed the hope that now the government of Nepal would carry all segments of society in the political and economic development of Nepal, that social stability would be maintained, that economic progress could be made and he concluded by saying that India will stand with Nepal as a reliable partner to assist in whatever we can in Nepal’s development.

We are committed to fully developing and deepening our relations with Nepal.Now the joint statement will be issued very shortly so I’m sure you will have a copy but I wanted to flag in the joint statement, three what we consider to be a game changing new areas of cooperation.Of course both the prime ministers reviewed the existing and ongoing cooperation and I am sure all of you are aware of a number of projects which are ongoing but these are three new areas where we felt that in the light of the establishment of a new democratic government and our commitment to develop that relationship, we need to take this forward.

The first is we have agreed to expand rail links by looking at the possibility of assisting Nepal in constructing a railway line from Raxaul in India to Kathmandu in Nepal, effectively connecting the Kathmandu Valley with the rail network of India.This as you can imagine is a very substantial project and a separate joint statement is also being issued on this besides mention of this in the joint statement.

It effectively says that the prime ministers of India and Nepal agreed to construct a new electrified railway line connecting the border city of Raxaul in India and Kathmandu in Nepal and as a first step we agreed that we would carry out survey work within one year,where after the two sides would finalize implementation and funding modalities for this project.In that same joint statement as you will see we have also committed to completing the existing cross-border rail-link projects.

The second new area is our decision to build connectivity between India and Nepal through inland waterways.This is as Prime Minister Oli said a priority for his government and in response our Prime Minister while conveying the consent of the government of India also made the remarks that India and Nepal and not only land linked but river linked as well.This of course we will be working on the specific modalities but then again a very brief and separate joint statement will be issued and that will also be uploaded which will agree upon the we have agreed that this is an important the decision for the movement cargo and provides an additional access to Nepal and that are the details of it,the procedure and modalities will be worked out in due course.

The third important initiative again emerging from one of the major priorities that the Prime Minister Oli has put forward, is agriculture. Prime Minister Oliemphasized invarious meetings today that Nepal is still a agriculturally -dependent country, that he wanted to give fresh momentum to this sector in the Nepal both in terms of modernization of the sector as well as in terms of moving to a greater emphasis on organic farming.And the government of India has together with the government of Nepal agreed that we will collaborate in all the areas of their interest, whether it is research and development, giving more training and scholarships under ITEC and other schemes, research in seed technologies.

Prime Minister spoke about our own experiences on the soil health card and offered to share this experience with Nepal are strengthening of infrastructure plant protection and so on. The Indian side is also good to announce a pilot project on organic farming and soil health.These are essentially the three major outcomes, if you would like, to this visit. I would just like to add here that overall it has been a very satisfactory visit for both prime ministers.They expressed the sentiment quite clearly at the press event before the lunch and I believe that we will now proceed to see how we can implement some of these new ideas.Invitation was extended to the Prime Minister to make an early visit to Nepal and an invitation has also been extended to the Hon’ble President of India on behalf of the President of Nepal.

I would just like to request our Ambassador in Kathmandu to say something if he wishes to add to this. Thank you.

Ambassador of India to Nepal, Shri Manjeev Singh Puri:
Thank you Foreign Secretary.I have very little more to add, just to say that this visit right at the beginning of the new term of a new Prime Minister and one who is there in coalition with the majority is extremely significant and the decisions taken today allow us to take forward relationship which has all elements of God, nature and our forefathers but to take it forward in a manner which is invigorated and which is in keeping with the needs of the time i.e. the 21st century.

These are game changing decisions that Foreign Secretary mentioned.The direct rail link linking Kathmandu straight away with the Indian railway network removing in a sense in Nepal the idea of being landlocked, linking them to the sea through the riverine system here in India and agriculture development which is truly the most important thing for both our economies and societies, if I may say so. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:Thank very much Foreign Secretary andAmbassador.We have some time for questions.

Question:Was the issue of demonetization raised by the Nepalese counterpart because that was something that he said in the Parliament before coming to India for his visit?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:
This issue was not raised at any of the meetings.

Question:Was there any assurance from the Prime Minister of Nepal as far as Madheshis are concerned that theirrepresentation is concerned and what are they going to do about them,their policies and the demands?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:The Prime Minister of Nepal in his various discussion spoke about the election process about his concept of, if I am not mistaken,prosperous and happy Nepalis, and about the need for social justice and economic development and, as I mentioned, Prime Minister also in his intervention has essentially said that with the mandate the Prime Minister Oli has got, it is our expectation that Nepal will make progress now by taking all segments of society along and ensuring social unity.So essentially that’s what both Prime Ministers shared with each other.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar:
We will take two questions together now.

Question:Just curious to know, was any discussion on the earthquake rebuilding were project that India is doing and there was a delay on project submissions and India’s so is there any momentum on that?

Question:Demonetized money abhi bhi Nepal mei ja raha hai aur wahaan par abhi bhi uska transaction ho raha hai kuch percentage mei. To wo jo clarity hai uskolekar kya Pragati hui hai aur kya Government of India is cheez ko clear kar chuki hai Nepal ko ya bhi wo prakriya poori honibaakihai?

(Some percentage of transactions in Nepal are still being conducted in demonetized Indian currency. So has Indian government had discussed the issue clearly with the Nepal government, has that process been completed or is it still under discussion?)

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:Jaise maine kahais baat par charchanahihui, is visit ke dauraan. Iske alawa kya ho raha hai aur kya nahi ho raha hai, us par main tippaninahikarunga.

(As I said there was no discussion on this issue during this visit. Besides that what is happening or not happening on this issue, I would refrain myself to comment on that.)

Manjeev I request you to answer the question on rebuilding in Nepal after the earthquake.

Ambassador of India to Nepal, Shri Manjeev Singh Puri:Prime Minister Oli expressed satisfaction at India’s support and the fact that the things were now moving forward. Just to give you a little bit of the background, one of the major sectors that we are offering assistance for is support for reconstruction of 50,000 houses.Very recently we have appointed UNDP and UNOPS not along with the Nepali National Reconstruction Agency and work on that is now going apace and will really gather a great deal of momentum in the very coming weeks.

We are also in an advanced stage on the issues dealing with heritage as well as the school sector. So work is really picking and is going forward.Thank you.

Question:PM Oli ne jaisa ki sweekar kiya ki OBOR project ke saath Nepal judnejaa raha hai kyonki hum lagatarapnisamprabhuta ka sawaalkhadakarte rahe hain, khastaur par OBOR project ko lekar. Mera doosrasawaal hai, khastaur par Nepal mein, ek radicalization jo badh raha hai wo hamareliye ke security issue hai aur doosari taraf China ka jo interference hai, do terms hain China ke intereference ke, ek to jo unke projects hai wo govern kar rahe hain aur doosarawahaan par naxalwaad ki samasya bhi badh rahi hai jo Champaran se lekar Gorakhpur ke border par hamaareliyesuraksha ka issue hai. To kya in muddon par bhi baatcheethui hai?

(As PM Oli agreed that Nepal is going to connect with the OBOR project because we have been consistently raising the issue of Indian sovereignty regarding this project. My second question is related to the increasing radicalization in Nepal that is a security concern for us and on the other side China intervention is also increasing there. China’s intervention is two pronged, one is they are governing projects there in Nepal and the other is issue of Naxalism which is a security issue for us from Champaran to Gorakhpur border. So were these issues discussed?)

Question:The question is about hydroelectric projects in Nepal.Recently there was a hydroelectric project the BudhiGandaki project which was revived and K P Oli, the Prime Minister, after coming to power promised to revive this project. It was scrapped by the earlier government.There has also been a bit of concern that there would be a closer economic partnership with Beijing and the Nepal in the days to come.Even though every country has its own independent relationship,so that’s my question.Thank you?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:Aapdonone josawaaluthaaye hain, pehle to main batadoon ki China ke baare mein koi baat cheetnahihuidonoPradhanmantriyon ke beech mei. To is se ye bhi hota hai ki OBOR par bhi baat nahihui. Hamarajo focus tha wo hamaredwipaksheeysamabandhon par tha.

Jahantak Hydro Projects ki baat hai, BudhiGandaki par koi baat nahihui. Haandoosarejo Bharat aur Nepal ke beech jo hydro projects hain un par kuch baat cheethuijaisPancheswar ho ya Arun –III ho. Hum us par Pragati karenge.

Jahantak radicalization ki baat hai, is specific vishay par to baat nahihui lekin dono deshon ne ye tai kiya hai ki seema ke dono taraf jo hamare aur unke concerns, security concerns hai ya trans-border crime hai ya drug trafficking ya human trafickking hai, inpardonodesho ke beech mein aur jyadacoordination rahega aur dono desh koshish karenge ki doosare ke concern ko address karein. Lekin ye general baateinhui hain, koi specific baat nahihui hai.

(The questions that both of you raised, first let me tell you that there was no talks regarding China between the two prime ministers. So this also confers that there was no discussion on OBOR either. Our focus was on our bilateral ties.

As far as hydro projects are concerned, there was no discussion on BudhiGandaki. Yes there were discussion on other power projects which are between India and Nepal like Pancheshwar and Arun-III and we will move forward on that.

As far as radicalization is concerned, this specific issue was not discussed but both the countries decided that the concerns that both sides have on both sides of border, be it the security concerns or trans-border crime or concerns related to human and or drug trafficking, there will be much more coordination on such issues between both the countries and both countries will try to address each other’s concerns. These were all general discussions, no specific issues regarding this were discussed.)

Question:What about the developments of the events that played out in 2016 during Mr.Oli’s last term including the blockade, would you say that is now well behind as far as the bilateral relationship is concerned Are there certain set of lessons on the table that you would like to say that these are the lessons that were taken away from those episodes.And before coming to New Delhi addressing his Parliament Mr.Oli did say that he does want regionalism to move forward especially as Nepal is the Chair for SAARC and BIMSTEC, is there any way forward that’s been talked about, any specific proposal as to how to break the SAARC stalemate with whatever is going on between India and Pakistan?

Question:Mr.Oli has often said at home that the days of Nepal’s dependence on India are all over and India should nowbroad base its relationship with China.Even during the visitshere, Nepalese leaders have historically said, always made the point in New Delhi that no country can replace India so far as the ties with the Nepal are concerned but today to the best of my knowledge, Mr.Oli said no such thing.In fact he said that he spoke about the ties that the tie should be based on equality and self-respect and he also, though he did thank PM Modi but he made the point that India was just there was just another close neighbor of Nepal. So do we see some sort of a shift in the approach of the Nepalese?

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale: I think the circumstances in 2016 and today are different.The government of Nepal is a government which has been elected on the basis of a constitution that has been passed.As far as our relationship is concerned of course we have always had a close and unique relationship butthe efforts of both leaders at today’s meetings I would say is to have a forward-looking approach and to see how we can deepen and strengthen this relationship not only by completing existing initiatives or progressing existing initiatives but taking some new game changing initiatives to build those linkages between India and Nepal.

As far as regional issues are concerned, yes they were raised.If I recall correctly the Prime Minister of Nepal did say that he is looking forward to hosting the BIMSTEC summit this year.He also gave a very positive reference to the BBIN, the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal initiative.There was a mention of SAARC as well and as you know while India is very supportive of all the original connectivity and regional cooperation issues, the views expressed by Prime Minister were that the Prime Minister Oli was well aware of the circumstances.

The Prime Minister mentioned that he had very enthusiastically participated in Kathmandu SAARC summit but given the current state of play where there is cross border terrorism and where this is a disruptive force in the region, it is difficult in such circumstances to proceed with such initiatives.So there was some discussion of this.

As far as the other question is concerned, I did mention to you quite clearly that China did not figure as a subject of discussion.We have a unique relationship with Nepal, it is based on our history, it is made on culture, it is based on economic similarities, it is even based on political similarities for that matter.The focus was essentially, as I said, a forward-looking focus to strengthen the relationship.

Question:In the conversation on counterterrorism, was any specific area mentioned with regards to cross-border terrorism especially emanating from Pakistan and the FICN issue with India continues to raise with Nepal, was that raise this time around?Also Prime Minister of Nepal invited Prime Minister Modi to Nepal, are we likely to see a visit this year around?

Question: Prime Minister Oli has spoken about the trade deficit many times in the recent past and also the slow pace of you know infrastructural projects with India.Have we been able to give him a satisfying answer on that tour because you know there are projects that have been pending for years and which is one of the reasons where many people say that they will be closer to China I know that China did not come up in the discussions.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:With regard to the first question, no specific area was discussed on the issue of counter-terrorism.The issue of FICN which is a specific subject was not discussed.As I said it was a general discussion with both sides committing that they would work closer with each other to address any concerns that were there.

With regard to the invitation to our Prime Minister, as I said earlier the Prime Minister has been invited.Usually at such high level meetings dates are not discussed but yes it is our expectation that our Prime Minister will make a return visit to Nepal this year in 2018.

With regard to next question, the Prime Minister of Nepal did talk about trade imbalance.He did mention this as a matter where he would like to see some redressal. I think this is a matter which will be discussed when our Commerce Secretaries have a meeting.

On the slow pace of infrastructure projects, I think the essential effort of both leaders was to review some of the ongoing projects, as I said, and some of them you will find mention in the in the joint statement. Obviously, at that level you don’t go into the details, but I think there was a clear perception on both sides that now that there is a stable government in Nepal, and the entire political processes over, that both sides will see that any impediments on some of the very long standing projects are now quickly removed and in that regard there was mention of for various mechanisms that we have to do so including a mechanism in which our Ambassador in Kathmandu and the Foreign Secretary of Nepal regularly meets to review these projects.

Question: Nepal’s Prime Minister Oli mentioned about cross-border electricity regulation in cross-border electricity lines and issuing guidelines and also he talked about creating infrastructure on cross-border connectivity.So how this issue will come up between India and Nepal in coming days?

Question:Just to fine tune what just has been raised.Prime Minister Oli mentioned that he appreciates government of India’s plans to have guidelines and regulations for cross-border electricity trade, number one. Second he said that Nepal also desires to see early realization of the bilateral power trade agreement that was finalized in 2014. So apart from the power trade agreement of 2014 what are the new guidelines and new regulations that India is planning to bring?These two have to do with Nepal sale of energy to other countries, are you putting conditions that in Nepal would be disallowed from selling electricity to India if those hydroelectric project were to be built by some other countries say for example China?

Question:It’s a similar question that because we see some Indian media reports saying that India will not buy the are energy generated by a project invested by China, so does this happened during their meetings between the two prime ministers and is this official stand that India will not be the export market to the electricity generated by China’s project in Nepal?

Jt. Secretary (North), Shri Sudhakar Dalela:With regard to the discussion on the cooperation in power sector, it is a very positive sector for our cooperation between India and Nepal. We have built, as you may recall, three-year major transmission lines in the last two years. Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar and two lines we inaugurated last year when Prime Minister Deuba came to India, on India Nepal border in Bihar state and these lines are helping us to supply as of now electricity to Nepal, about 300-400 megawatts and recently we have reviewed their power purchaseagreement also for supply of additional power to Nepal.

We have a full mechanism atSecretaryLevel to discuss India Nepal cooperation. And both the secretaries will be meeting this month itself to discuss a range of issues and in thatwe do have issues relating to additional infrastructure on the border for and supply of power.We are looking at the issues such as energy banking, we also looking issue of power trading

About a year back, a year and a half back we did issue a set of guidelines to bring transparency in the regulatory mechanism for cross-border trade for power. We received some comments from our neighboring countries are in the last few months and we intend to look at these comments and see how we take those into account while trying to promote power trading market in South Asia.

Foreign Secretary, Shri Vijay Gokhale:Can I just add one thing to what are the questions Akhilesh asked, the Prime Minister of Nepal did also proposed that would India consider a second cross-border transmission line.And our response was that we were willing to look at this, if it, obviously, it’ll have to be discussed in detail between the two sides.

Question:………….. Inaudible…………

Jt. Secretary (North), Shri Sudhakar Dalela:The guidelines,as I mentioned,try to bring out the transparent mechanism for giving stakeholders some certainty. Regulatory transparency in having cross border trade inelectricity. Under the guidelines you have to frame regulations by CERC. These guidelines have not been framed yet, these are in draft state but meanwhile we received comments from both Nepal and other neighboring countries also and we intend to look at these comments and see how we can take those concerns into account while going forward and while laying out a transparent guideline and regulatory structure in our region.


Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I think the Jt.Secretary had answered whatever he had to.

With this we conclude the special briefing.Thank you Foreign Secretary, Ambassador and Jt. Secretary to come to this briefing and thank you all for joining.


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