External Affairs Sushma Swaraj today described her three-day visit to Nepal as very successful during which the two neighbours agreed to finalise the text of a power trade deal and "review" and adjust" a crucial treaty of 1950 to reflect the current realties. "It was a very successful trip and the achievements were more than my expectations," Swaraj said at Tribhuvan International Airport here before leaving for New Delhi.
Swaraj said both sides removed hurdles and agreed to step up cooperation in a number of key areas. During her visit, the External Affairs Minister met Nepal's top leaders including President Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. Swaraj also met UCPN-Maoist chief and Leader of Opposition Prachanda.
Swaraj this morning called on Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam, who is also the acting chairman of the CPN-UML, which is a constituent of the ruling coalition. Swaraj was in Nepal to co-chair the meeting of the Indo-Nepal Joint Commission (JC) which was held yesterday after a gap of 23 years and to prepare the ground for the two-day official visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi from August 3 -- the first visit by an Indian Premier in over 17 years. The late Prime Minister I K Gujral had visited Nepal in 1997.
During the visit, India told Nepal that the new Indian government is very keen to impart "renewed momentum" to their multifaceted bilateral ties even as the two countries decided to step up cooperation in key areas of defence, security, trade and and hydro power.
The two countries also agreed to "review" and adjust" the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 to reflect the current realties. The JC directed the Foreign Secretaries to make necessary recommendations. It also directed the Nepal-India Boundary Working Group to commence field works at the earliest. The decision was taken at the meeting of the Indo-Nepal Joint Commission co-chaired by Swaraj and her Nepalese counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey.
The two leaders underscored the importance of harnessing vast hydropower potentials of Nepal for mutual benefits. They directed the concerned authorities to finalise the text of a Power Trade Agreement (PTA) at the earliest. While noting the finalisation of the Terms of Reference of the Pancheswar Development Authority, they directed the concerned authorities for early completion of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project.
The Joint Commission expressed satisfaction over the implementation of 400 kV Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur Double Circuit Cross-Border Transmission Interconnection and noted that the transmission interconnection would integrate the power grids on the two sides of the border and pave the way to initiate unfettered flow of power between the two countries.
The Joint Commission decided to expedite the construction of 132 kV Kataiya-Kusaha and 132 kV Raxaul-Parwanipur Transmission Line Projects so that the transmission lines would help import additional power from India in the short term and help address power deficit situation in Nepal.
The two sides issued a joint statement which said the meeting reviewed the entire gamut of Nepal-India relations and affirmed that the Joint Commission would make an important contribution to strengthen the traditionally warm and close ties between the two countries.
The two Ministers expressed satisfaction over the ongoing cooperation in defence sector. They expressed happiness over the ongoing cooperation between the security agencies of both countries and emphasized the need for promoting greater collaboration and cooperation in combating cross-border crimes.
"They reiterated the commitment of their respective governments not to allow their territories to be used against each other," the joint statement said. The two sides noted the significance of enhancing productive capacity in agriculture to positively impact on livelihoods of the people. The Indian side would continue to supply chemical fertilizers to Nepal and extend cooperation for the establishment of a Deemed Agricultural University, it said.
The two Ministers stressed the need for further enhancing bilateral trade and investment to foster mutually beneficial economic growth and development. They noted Nepal's trade deficit with India and agreed to take effective measures to address the problem. Both sides stressed the need to complete necessary formalities to enable entry into force of the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA).
In order to promote Nepal's exports to India, the Indian side agreed to further relaxing the rules of origin requirements; simplifying and streamlining transit and customs related procedures; eliminating TBT and making the SPS related measures less stringent; and lifting quantitative restrictions on the export of Nepalese products to India.
At present the annual bilateral trade is nearly USD 4.7 billion and India accounts for 47 per cent of foreign direct investment in Nepal. The Nepalese leaders during their meetings with Swaraj expressed their "happiness" and "excitement" over the initiative taken by India to bring new momentum in ties and said they have high expectations from the forthcoming visit of Modi.