On January 21, 2020, PM Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Nepal K.P. Oli jointly inaugurated the second Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Jogbani-Biratnagar. The ICP, spread over 260 acres, is capable of handling 500 trucks on a daily basis. The Rs 140 crore project aims to improve trade and strengthen people-to-people contact. The first ICP was built in Raxaul-Birgunj in 2018, and the third and last one in this initiative is under progress at Nepalgunj.
Series of Connectivity Initiatives
If these were seen in isolation, they may appear like another random project. However, India in recent times has upped the ante on pursuing greater connectivity with Nepal, and the integrated check posts are one among many such prominent efforts.
Bus service between two historical cities, Janakpur in Nepal which is Sita’s birthplace and Ayodhya in India which is Rama’s birthplace, was flagged off in May 2018. This binds the heart of people of two nations culturally and emotionally.
The first-ever cross-border petroleum product pipeline in the South Asia region on September 10, 2019 has enabled Nepal to get cleaner petroleum products at affordable cost having a capacity of 2 million metric ton per annum.
In a sign that confirms that the north-eastern states are becoming a major part of India’s growth story, Tripura started selling its surplus power to Nepal from June 2019. Indian power supplies have played a role in overcoming Nepal’s power shortage problems in the Kathmandu valley via the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission lines.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nepal noted, “an important Power Trade Agreement was signed between the two countries in 2014 paving way for the power developers of the two countries to trade electricity across the border without restrictions. Private/public power developers from India have reached agreements with the Investment Board of Nepal to develop two mega hydropower projects – Upper Karnali and Arun III.”
In 2015, along with Bhutan and Bangladesh, Nepal signed Motor Vehicles Agreement with India that paved the way for a seamless movement of people and goods across their borders for the benefit and integration of the region and its economic development.
Post- Earthquake Efforts
India’s assistance in rebuilding Nepal after disastrous earthquake in 2015 is widely acknowledged, as it has progressed swiftly. As PM Modi himself noted, “Out of GoI’s commitment to build 50,000 houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, 45,000 have already been completed.”
After the exchange of State Visits by the Prime Ministers of Nepal and India in April and May 2018, the Nepal government expressed its willingness to expand on the partnership:
“Both sides have agreed to advance new partnership in agriculture, expand rail linkages connecting Kathmandu to Raxaul with India’s financial support, and develop inland waterways for the movement of cargo providing additional access to sea for Nepal. It has also been agreed to address outstanding matters in a stipulated timeframe, with the objective of advancing cooperation in all areas.”
There could be many arguments about the China influence on Nepal. Nevertheless, the fact is that with all the recent measures explained here, it is safe to conclude that India has ensured that the neighbouring state will not overlook India’s interest in any of its move, being a stakeholder in the developmental discourse. With the increasing avenues of people to people contact, India has significantly strengthened its relationship with Nepal.