India and Nepal on Tuesday jointly inaugurated the Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline, the first ever cross-border petroleum products link in South Asia, PTI reported. The pipeline is supposed to help Nepal meet its energy demands and reduce the cost of fuel transportation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on the occasion that the pipeline was a symbol of close ties between India and Nepal, the Hindustan Times reported. “It is a matter of great satisfaction that the first cross-border petroleum pipeline of South Asia has been completed in record time,” Modi said via video link from New Delhi. “It was ready in half the time than expected.”

The Prime Minister’s Office tweeted that he had met his Nepal counterpart KP Oli four times in the last one-and-a-half year. The prime minister said that during his visit to Nepal in May, the two had agreed to finish planned projects quickly. Modi and Oli had agreed to boost ties in the agriculture sector and increase connectivity between the two countries by rail links and waterways. They also laid the foundation stone of Arun 3, a hydro power project in Kathmandu.

“After the devastating earthquake in 2015 when Nepal took up the reconstruction, India extended its hand for cooperation as a neighbour and a close friend,” Modi said. “I am happy that due to our joint cooperation houses have been built again in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts of Nepal.”

The Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline was to be fully constructed by April this year. However, the project was delayed pending permission to cut trees in Parsa National Park in Nepal.

The pipeline will now be used to supply diesel from Motihari in Bihar in the first phase. The Nepal Army will provide security to the pipeline on its side of the border. The Nepal Oil Corporation hopes to save Rs 2 billion (Rs 126 crore in Indian currency) annually in freight of petroleum products through the use of the pipeline.

The project was first planned in 1996. However, it was delayed until 2015, when India and Nepal signed a deal to build the pipeline. However, the Nepal earthquake further delayed these plans. Work on the project finally began in April last year.

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