Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli in Kathmandu on Friday. The two leaders agreed to boost ties in the agriculture sector and increase connectivity between the two countries by rail links and waterways.
“We agree that connectivity is an important factor for the development of our people,” said Modi. “We want to strengthen the connectivity between the two countries using roadways and railways.”
Oli said they have agreed to address all matters by September 19, the constitution day of Nepal. He added that relations between neighbours are different from others. “Neighbours have always been our top priority.” Oli said. He also requested Modi to facilitate the exchange of demonetised currency notes held in the Nepali banking system.
Modi and Oli laid the foundation stone of Arun 3, a hydro power project in Kathmandu. “I am visiting Nepal at a very special time, when elections have been successfully conducted here at federal, provincial and local levels,” said Modi. “India stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Nepal.”
Earlier in the day, Modi launched an Indo-Nepal bus service between Janakpur in Nepal and Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. According to mythology, Janakpur is the birthplace of Sita and Ayodhya that of Ram.
Modi said at the launch that India and Nepal would work towards building a “Ramayan circuit” between the two countries, according to ANI. “This will act as foundation for strong people-to-people contact between the two nations,” he added.
“People of India and Nepal are bound by mutual respect and admiration for each other,” the prime minister said. “Nepal has been a tourism spot for decades for spiritualism. India’s faith is incomplete without Nepal.”
Nepal and India have stood by each other at all difficult times, he said, adding that he “always wants” the development of India’s neighbours. “When I talk about ‘Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’, I not only talk about India but also about neighbouring countries,” he said. “Today, I’m happy that Nepal is developing rapidly.”
This is Modi’s third visit to Nepal since 2014, and follows Oli’s visit to India in April. In 2016, Oli had openly accused New Delhi of interfering in his country’s internal matters. The visits are seen as an attempt to mend relations between the two countries.
However, many Twitter users reminded Modi of the time India had enforced a blockade while Nepal was still recovering from the 2015 earthquake. Hashtags like #BlockadeWasCrimeMrModi and #ModiNotWelcomedInNepal were trending.
Some said Modi should apologise for the 135-day blockade from September 2015 to February 2016 that crippled Nepal’s economy.
“Sorry, Mr Modi we haven’t forgotten the blockade,” read a tweet. “We are not welcoming you but it doesn’t mean that we are anti-Indian. We are with Indian people but we condemn the Indian government act of blockade in Nepal.” Another user tweeted, “Mr Modi, the Nepali politician will welcome you in Nepal but, Nepalese people never!!”