KATHMANDU, OCT 16 –
India is preparing to announce a substantial assistance package worth billions of rupees to help Nepal’s development process during Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s upcoming India visit, according to the Nepali government officials, privy to consultations between the two countries in the run-up to the visit. The announcement will be made in New Delhi possibly after Bhattarai’s meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on October 21. PM Bhattarai is leaving for New Delhi on October 20.
The package, on top of US $ 250 million line of credit, would include assistance for new irrigation and healthcare facilities, considerable increase in the current level of assistance extended in education sector and an increase in the number of scholarships given to Nepali students, according to a senior government official. Currently, India is allotting 1,783 scholarships to Nepali students every year.
“It would be a dignified package that includes items on PM’s wish list to set up a technology school in Nepal like Indian Institute of Technology, upgrading the current facilities of some hospitals, setting up a new polytechnic institute, and irrigation projects,” the official said.
A meeting of ruling parties on Saturday urged the PM to reach out to other political parties to forge national consensus on the critical issues like extradition treaty, mutual legal assistance, air marshal and signing the strip maps with India.
“We advised the PM to focus on trade and commerce issues during the visit,” Information Minister Jaya Prakash Prasad Gupta said.
During the visit, Nepal and India will sign an agreement of US $250 million line of credit announced in 2010.
Chief of Foreign Aid Division at the Ministry of Finance, Lal Shanker Ghimire, and senior official at Export and Import Bank of India will sign the agreement on behalf of the respective governments. “The money will be spent on three sectors: building infrastructure projects, developing hydropower and constructing irrigation projects according to our priorities,” Finance Secretary Krishna Hari Baskota said.
The line of credit is part of Indian lending facility for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of South Asian region or Saarc. India has a standing policy of providing US $ 500 million soft loan (1.75 percent annual interest) to LDCs of the Saarc. In 2006, during then PM Girija Prasad Koirala’s visit, India had announced US $100 million line of credit to Nepal which Nepal is yet to fully utilise.
“This time, the PM is also likely to raise the issue of remaining US $150 million to Nepal as part of the LDCs lending facility,” a government source said.
According to Finance Secretary Baskota, the two sides will also sign an agreement on avoiding double taxation.
Agreement on using Visakhapatnam Port for export and import of goods and Indian facilitation to use Rohanpur-Singabad route to reach Bangladeshi port are also on the cards.
Construction of an embankment at the Nepal-India border particularly in Laxmanpur area, compensation to Nepal on Koshi and Gandak agreements and construction of canals barrage in Laxmanpur and Sarada to discharge water from Nepal would be on the agenda during the visit. AnilGiri ekantipur