Signalling his government’s resolve to work with India’s neighbours towards a common future for the benefit of each, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday announced a slew of measures to help Nepal realise its potential and “scale heights greater than the Himalayas”.
He also said it rankled him that it had taken an Indian prime minister 17 years to come calling and promised it would never happen again.
Addressing Nepal’s lawmakers after being accorded a ceremonial reception at the Tribhuvan airport on his arrival from New Delhi, Modi announced extension of a US $1 billion Line of Credit to Nepal in addition to what had been granted earlier and hoped Kathmandu would use it well.
He said he wanted to “HIT Nepal” with “H for highways, I for informationways, T for transmissionways”, and that India was prepared to share scientific applications in agriculture, even its soil health card initiative, to help the farmers of Nepal.
The one line he repeated — “You decide what needs to be done, India will stand by you” — was meant to not only allay fears and suspicion in India’s neighbourhood but also amplified the approach of his government. India will never interfere in Nepal’s affairs, Modi said. Bhutan was his first stop after assuming charge and he sent External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Bangladesh before heading out to Nepal.
Later, at a banquet hosted by Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, Modi said: “I am happy I came here so early in my tenure. I will make every effort to continue my journey with Nepal during my remaining days in office.”
Praising Koirala for attending his swearing-in ceremony at short notice, Modi told the House that SAARC nations must come together to fight poverty. “India will do all it takes. We will not be doing any charity, it is our duty.” Saying all SAARC nations stood to gain from Indian advancement in space technology, he said India would soon launch a SAARC satellite.
He urged Nepal’s lawmakers to draft a “carefully thought” and “visionary” constitution at the earliest, reminding them that “a constitution joins, never divides… gives direction to a country”.
He spoke in Nepali in his opening remarks at the Nepalese Parliament, much to the delight of all in the House. He said he was “overjoyed to be in Nepal” where he had first come as a “pilgrim” many years ago, and that he felt “very privileged and honoured” to be the first guest to be invited to address the House. He said this was not just an honour for him but for “125 crore people of India” whose ties with Nepal were “as old as the Himalayas and the continued…