Kathmandu closer to New Delhi

Editorial

Nepal and India inaugurated a cross-border oil pipeline, which will transport fuel to the landlocked country. The move seeks to bind Kathmandu closer to New Delhi, economically and strategically.

The 69km pipeline will transport fuel from the Barauni refinery in Bihar to Amlekhgunj in south-east Nepal and is the first cross-border petroleum products pipeline in South Asia. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister KP Shamra Oli along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi via video conferencing.

The aim is to cement India-Nepal ties in the face of major inroads made by China into the Himalayan nation, and seeks to repair the trust deficit between the two countries due to an economic blockade seemingly imposed by India in 2015 to persuade Nepal to change some provisions in its new constitution.

Actually, this is a very, very important development. The pipeline connects India seamlessly to Nepal underlining the fact that geography favours India-Nepal relations naturally. The pipeline will also boost mutual trust and confidence between the two countries.

The Motihari-Amlekhgunj oil pipeline project was first proposed in 1996. The project was put back on the agenda during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kathmandu in 2014. The two governments had signed an agreement to execute the project in August 2015. Construction had begun in April 2018. Construction of the pipeline was undertaken by Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL), India’s largest refiner, with an investment of over ₹324 crore, in collaboration with Nepal Oil Corp. Ltd (NOCL).

Reiterating India’s commitment to Nepal’s development, Modi said the bilateral projects conceived by the two countries are progressing well and he hoped to jointly inaugurate them with his Nepal counterpart in the coming days. People to people ties were the foundation of the bilateral relationship, Modi said. “By reducing the price of fuel and transferring the benefits to consumers in Nepal, you have already conveyed to the people of Nepal that this pipeline is for their benefit," Modi said referring to a fuel price cut by the Nepalese government.

Meanwhile, terming the Nepal-India energy cooperation project as a symbol of intimacy, Indian Prime Minister Modi hoped that it would help enhance the energy security of the region and substantially reduce fuel transportation costs. He also reiterated the Indian commitment to Nepal’s development. Mentioning that the Nepal-Indian relationship would continue to be enhanced in the days ahead, he said that bilateral projects conceived by the two countries were progressing well and he hoped to jointly inaugurate them with his Nepali counterpart in the future. As invited by Prime Minister Oli, Modi assured that he would visit Nepal soon. Nepal imports around 70 per cent of the total fuel consumed through the Raxaul depot of the IOC. Thus, the project is a testimony of consolidation of the bilateral ties between the two neighbours.

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