NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — India and Nepal have agreed to renew cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, connectivity and energy. The agreements were made during India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swraj's bilateral talks with Nepal's President and Prime Minister on Friday on the sidelines of the inauguration o the 15th ministerial meeting of BIMSTEC.
BIMSTEC, Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation, is a regional organization of seven countries lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal. It came into existence in June 1997 and includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
"External Affairs Minister called on President of Nepal Bidya Devi Bhandari and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. During her call on the President, External Affairs Minister recalled the successful visit of President to India earlier this year, which further strengthened our age old ties. The two sides discussed ways to enhance cultural linkages and people to people contact between our two countries," India's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a statement.
The bilateral discussions mainly centered on ways to enhance cooperation in the hydropower sector which is one of the core focus areas between the two countries.
"In her meeting with Prime Minister Deuba, External Affairs Minister highlighted frequent and intensive hhigh-level exchanges as a reflection of our deepening relationship. External Affairs Minister said that the Government of India was looking forward to the State visit of Prime Minister Deuba to India. The two sides discussed an expanded bilateral agenda reflecting the updated national priorities on Nepal. Progress in the reconstruction activities and cooperation on hydro power sector also came up for discussion. Both the sides agreed that there were immense possibilities for cooperation in the sectors of infrastructure, connectivity and energy," MEA Spokesperson said.
Indian Foreign Minister also met a delegation of Rashtriya Janta Party Nepal, led by Mahant Thakur.
Given the fact that the Himalayan nation is sandwiched between the two Asian giants, historically Nepal has always maintained equidistant outlook towards both. However, relationship between Nepal and India has been rough since Nepal promulgated a new Constitution in 2015. India viewed the new Constitution as a blatant denial of equal rights to the Madhesi people (who have close ties to India's bordering states). Meanwhile, China and Nepal and grew closer in recent times with the latter anticipating huge economic benefits from China's vision of "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR). 2016 saw China passing India as a top aid donor to Nepal. In the current standoff between India and China at the Doklam region, Nepal has chosen a neutral stand despite prodding by both the neighbors.