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India supports 'united, prosperous and strong' Nepal, says PM Modi

By PTI
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    Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said India supports a "united, prosperous and strong" Nepal as he called for transforming the land-locked Himalayan nation into a land- and water-linked country.

    Narendra Modi and K P Sharma Oli

    Modi made the remarks at a joint press meet after a one-on-one meeting with his Nepalese counterpart K P Sharma Oli which was followed by marathon delegation-level talks during which the two sides had extensive discussion on all aspects of the bilateral relationship.

    "India supports a united, prosperous and strong Nepal," Modi asserted after Oli in his remarks said that Nepal's desire is to create a strong relationship underpinned by mutual trust so that it is not affected by any "occasional or intermittent differences that are natural between neighbours."

    Oli was apparently referring to the strain in bilateral ties after the adoption of a new Constitution by Nepal in 2015 that divided Nepal into seven provincial units and marginalised Madhesis, who are largely of Indian-origin and inhabitants of the Terai.

    The move triggered a six-month-long agitation, from September 2015 to February 2016, during Oli's first tenure in which more than 50 people were killed. The agitation had also crippled the land-locked country's economy as supplies from India were blocked.

    "Prime Minister Modi and I have just concluded bilateral talks on the entire gamut of our relationship in an atmosphere of warm and cordiality that characterises the deep friendship and understanding between our two countries," Oli said, adding that the two sides have agreed to address "all matters" by September 19 - Nepal's Constitution Day.

    "We reiterated our firm commitment to take our relations forward on the basis of equality, mutual trust, respect and benefit. Relations between neighbours are different from that of others. Neighbourhood constitutes top priority in our foreign policy," he said.

    Prime Minister Modi responded by saying that this was his third visit to Nepal since assuming office in 2014 and it shows his government's "deep commitment" to further strengthen ties with Nepal.

    He called for transforming Nepal from a land-locked country to a water- and land- linked nation.

    Modi also hailed the three successful polls in Nepal after the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2015.

    "I am visiting Nepal at a very special time, when elections have been successfully conducted here at federal, provincial and local levels. India stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of Nepal," Modi said.

    Nepal conducted two-phased parliamentary and provincial Assembly elections in November and December 2017. The country also held local elections in three phases last year.

    Earlier on Friday, Modi flagged off a direct bus service between Janakpur in Nepal and Ayodhya in India along with his Nepalese counterpart KP Sharma Oli.

    "Without Nepal, India's faith, dharms (religions) and our Lord Ram is incomplete," PM Modi said.

    Janakpur, the erstwhile capital of Mithila ruled by King Janak and birthplace of Sita, will now be connected with Ayodhya, the birth place of Lord Ram through the bus service.

    The places are significant in the Ramayana tourism circuit that falls under the Indian Government's Swadesh Darshan Scheme.

    PTI

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