New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with his Nepalese counterpart Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ Thursday as India and China bid for influence in the tiny Himalayan nation as part of a greater regional power struggle.
Dahal is on a four-day visit to India, his first trip abroad since taking office last December. After the meeting, the two prime ministers remotely inaugurated several projects, including a cargo railway line and two border checkpoints, and oversaw the signing of a slew of agreements.
PM Modi said they agreed to further deepen their historic ties and “take our relations to Himalayan heights.” He said they agreed to resolve all their outstanding issues, including a border dispute.
Dahal said at a joint news conference that they reviewed ongoing projects and discussed ways to further cooperate in connectivity, energy and people-to-people contact.
Nepal is bordered on three sides by India, with an open frontier allowing traffic without passports or visas. New Nepalese prime ministers traditionally visit neighboring India soon after taking office.
Until recently, India was a dominant force in Nepal, but China’s involvement has grown in the last few years. China has invested in the building of airports, highways and hydropower projects. Beijing views Nepal as key to its massive transcontinental infrastructure Belt and Road Initiative that builds on old Silk Road routes that once connected China to the West.
Landlocked Nepal, however, remains dependent on India for all its oil needs and many other necessities.
In a recent interview, Nepali Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud said his country will work to enhance its relations with both India and China while maintaining a policy of nonalignment.