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 Sutluj 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.