Asian Paints
PM Oli and his Indian counterpart Modi remotely launch Arun III from Kathmandu on Friday night. Pic: RSS

PM KP Oli and his visiting Indian counterpart Narendra Modi remotely ​pressed a button in Kathmandu to lay the foundation of ​the Arun III ​ hydropower project in Num 200km away in eastern Nepal. The 900 MW ​run-of-the-river scheme is being built by ​the Indian ​public sector firm, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam. 

After a meeting of high-level delegations of Nepal and India late Friday night at Dwarkia’s Hotel, the two PMs jointly switched on the project, the contract of which was awarded to Sutl​u​j a decade ago.

At a joint press meet, Modi expressed ​the hope that Arun III will help create jobs and investment opportunities in Nepal. But experts say Arun III would be a losing proposition for Nepal because nearly 80% electricity generated by this project will be exported to India. They say Nepal could benefit much more from the economic multiplier if the power met its own future needs.​

At the same conference, Oli thanked Modi for his initiative in pushing forward agreements on a gamut of development projects like Birganj-Raxaul railway, inland waterway, agriculture and trade.

Modi expressed a commitment to help realise Oli’s vision to turn a landlocked Nepal into a water-linked country. He also said that the Kathmandu-Raxaul rail survey would begin soon, and India’s Agriculture Minister will visit Nepal to discuss collaboration on agriculture.

​​He also pledged to provide a state-of-the art radio therapy machine at Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital.

Earlier, Modi was accorded a guard of honour at Tundikhel amidst protests against India’s five-month blockade on Nepal two years ago. Nepalis on social media asked Modi to apologise for what they say was a crime against humanity -- a plea ignored by the Indian PM.

Police also tore down a banner denouncing the blockade and demanding an Indian apology from the office of the Bibeksheel-Sajha Party in Kathmandu. Later the party set aloft balloons with the same message.​

Before flying in to Kathmandu, Modi addressed a public gathering in Janakpur where he was also given a ​public welcome​

Modi also announced a financial assistance of Rs 100 crore for development of the city​, where his presence was widely appreciated​.

Modi flew in to Janakpur straight from Delhi earlier Friday. After offering prayers at ​the Janaki ​Ttemple, he and Oli also flagged off a Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service​ linking the birthplaces of Sita and Ram.​ Modi will fly to Mustang ​early ​on Saturday morning to offer prayers at Muktinath, and he will wrap up his visit after some political meeting ​in Kathmandu ​on Saturday itself.

This is the third time that Modi has visited Nepal since becoming India’s PM. However, unlike his previous two ​trips, this ​one angered a section of Nepalis affected by the Indian blockade at a time when ​the country was struggling to overcome ​the impact of the earthquake.

Many even switched off lights for 10 minutes in a symbolic protest against India when Modi and Oli were in a closed-door meeting on Friday. Police also arrested some students staging a sit-in at Tribhuvan University, asking Modi to say sorry to Nepalis for inflicting misery on them in 2015-2016.

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