In a landmark step that will enhance connectivity and people-to-people contacts between India and Nepal, the prime ministers of the two countries are set to flag off the direct Delhi-Kathmandu bus service via Sunauli border November 25.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepali counterpart Sushil Kumar Koirala will jointly inaugurate the bus link at a function in Singhadurbar in the Nepali capital, according to The Himalayan Times.
The bus service is part of the Motor Vehicles Agreement between the two nations and will operate on three bus routes – Kahmandu-New Delhi, Pokhara-New Delhi and Kathmandu-Benares.
This service will be operationalised by the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC). DTC already has Delhi-Lahore bus service, which was set in motion by India’s then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in March 1999.
The one-way fare from the Delhi to Kathmandu will be around Rs 2,300.
This service will start from Ambedkar Stadium Bus Terminal in Delhi and end in Kathmandu. A team of DTC experts who had been to Kathmandu to study the routes, halting points and others issues have already finalised the itenarary.
Apart from connectivity through the land route, air connectivity is high on Modi’s agenda. He is likely to gift an advanced light helicopter (ALH), generically named HAL Dhruv Mark-3, to the Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who will then hand over the keys to Chief of the Nepal Army Gen. Gaurav Sumsher Rana at a function slated to be organised at the Nepal Army Pavilion in Tundikhel, in the heart of Kathmandu.
Earlier, Nepal had sought to purchase two ALHs from India at a highly subsidised price during the 11th Bilateral Consultative Group meeting in Kathmandu in July. After lengthy negotiations, the Indian side had agreed to gift one helicopter to Nepal.
The helicopter is designed to meet the needs of both military and civil operators. Manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the helicopter costs $6.5 million. With sound features, the helicopter has been equipped with rocket, air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles and a gun turret It landed in Kathmandu last week.
Mr Modi will also formally hand over a trauma centre built with Indian aid adjacent to the Bir Hospital in the centre of Kathmandu.
In matters of cultural integration, Modi is likely to call for connectivity between religious sites in the region.
A week ago, ahead of the SAARC summit, the Union cabinet had approved signing of the framework agreement for setting up a regional power grid for the region.
The SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation among the SAARC Member States is scheduled to be signed at this Summit that will enable greater cooperation in the power sector among member countries.
The agreement is expected to improve the power availability in the entire SAARC region. It would facilitate integrated operation of the regional power grid.
In the SAARC Summit, Modi is likely to push for signing of agreements on power and energy grids, the movement motor vehicles and railway connectivity in the region.
With a view to boost border trade, apart from Attari-Wagah on India-Pakistan border, India has proposed 13 integrated check posts (ICPs) at its borders like Petrapole in West Bengal, Moreh in Manipur, Raxaul in Bihar, Dawki in Meghalaya, Agartala in Tripura, Jogbani in Bihar, Hili and Changrabandha in West Bengal, Sutarkhandi in Assam, Kawarpuchiah in Mizoram, Sunauli and Rupaidiha in Uttar Pradesh. Modi will urge the member countries to speed up their work on border points to boost trade through land route. He will also pledge for similar initiative for India. He will also urge for maritime and coastal connectivity.
Senior officials of the eight-member SAARC grouping Monday discussed cooperation on a range of issues like combating terrorism, poverty alleviation, energy security and climate change. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and other top diplomats met at the 41st meeting of SAARC Standing Committee ahead of the 18th SAARC Summit scheduled from November 26 to 27. The agenda for three Cs – culture, connectivity and commerce – was also finalised.
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