India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Nepali counterpart Mahendra Bahadur Pandey led their respective delegations in Saturday's meeting of the joint commission held after a hiatus of 23 years.
"The two leaders underscored the importance of harnessing the vast hydropower potentials of Nepal for mutual benefits. They directed the concerned authorities to finalise the text of a Power Trade Agreement at the earliest," the communique stated.
"While noting the finalisation of the terms of reference of the Pancheswar Development Authority, they directed the concerned authorities for early completion of the DPR of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project."
The Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project (PMP) is a joint hydropower project to be developed on Mahakali river bordering Nepal and India.
Development of the PMP is a mutual interest project between the two South Asian neighboours and is covered under the integrated Mahakali Treaty signed between Nepal and India according to which, equal sizes of underground power house i.e., of 3240MV will be constructed on each side of Mahakali river in India and Nepal.
The PMP will also offer regulated water for irrigation to a vast area of agricultural land both in Nepal and India along with flood control downstream.
"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 communique stated.
Sushma Swaraj also paid courtesy calls to Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav, and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala. The Nepalese side reiterated its support for India's candidature for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. Nepal said that it looked forward to the forthcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Nepal early August.
"The Joint Commission reviewed the entire gamut of Nepal-India relations. It affirmed that the Joint Commission would make an important contribution to further strengthen the traditionally warm and close relations and add new dimensions in the areas of cooperation. The two leaders underlined the importance of timely meeting of the Joint Commission in the future," the communique stated.
The two sides "also 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 fertilisers to Nepal and extend cooperation for the establishment of a deemed agricultural university," the communique said.
Nepal, acording to the communique, appreciated India's continued technical and financial cooperation in building physical infrastructures including roads, railways and bridges.
Both Sushma Swaraj and Pandey 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)," the communique stated.
In order to promote Nepal's exports to India, "the Indian side agreed to further relax the rules of origin requirements simplifying and streamlining transit and customs related procedures".
"Both sides directed the concerned authorities to conclude pending Letters of Exchange (LOEs) at the earliest with a view to facilitating trade and traffic in transit," it stated.
"The authorities concerned have been instructed to carry out the works of the Terai Roads under Phase I projects with utmost priority and commence the Phase II projects by concluding agreement as soon as possible. The Joint Commission agreed that the construction of Tanakpur-Mahendranagar Link Road should be expedited. It also underlined the need for expediting the construction work of the cross-border railway connectivity."
The Nepalese side also appreciated the continued Indian cooperation in human resource development of Nepal. "It welcomed India's decision to increase scholarships for Nepalese students and expressed the hope that such scholarships would be processed through government channels," it stated.
The meeting also noted the satisfactory progress in the projects covered under the Indian EXIM Bank Lines of Credit (LoC).
"At the request of the Nepalese side, the Joint Commission acknowledged the need to relax the requirement of Indian content for the road projects included in the $250-million LoC and agreed that the Indian content requirement would be reduced to 50 percent. It called upon the LoC review mechanism to expedite the works of the projects identified under the $250 million LoC and agreed that EXIM Bank funding could be used for bigger projects with greater socio-economic impact in future," it stated.
The Joint Commission also discussed the possibilities of extending cooperation for the development and conservation of tourism and religious sites like Pashupati, Lumbini, Janakpur and Barahachhetra.
During the course of her visit, Sushma Swaraj extended an invitation to Nepal Foreign Minister Pandey to visit India, which was accepted. Earlier Saturday, the Indian minister also met Chairman of the Constituent Assembly, Subas Nembang, at Singha Dubar and Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, chairman of the United Communist Paty of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), on the sidelines of the joint commission meeting.
In the meeting with Nembang, the two leaders discussed the preparations being made in Nepal's parliament for the address of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he visits in the first week of August.
Prachanda, on his part, underscored the need for relations between Nepal and India at the political level as, according to him, and dealing at non-political level has yielded no result.
The Indian foreign minister promised to work in strengthening Indo-Nepal ties further through a high-level political mechanism.