The Prime Minister of Nepal, Khadga Prasad Oli will arrive in New Delhi on Friday, April 6, on a three-day visit, his first to India after assuming office in February 2018.
The Prime Minister of Nepal, Khadga Prasad Oli will arrive in New Delhi on Friday, April 6, on a three-day visit, his first to India after assuming office in February 2018. Oli will be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday evening ahead of their delegation-level talks on Saturday, Friday 7, where they will virtually lay the foundation stone of the 900 MW Arun III hydroelectric project, reported The Indian Express.
The project will be built by the Sutlej Jal Vikas Nigam (SJVN) at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. Accompanied by his wife Radhika Shakya Oli, the Nepalese Prime Minister is expected to arrive on Friday morning and attend a business luncheon event later during the day. Oli is also expected to meet the Nepalese community in Delhi on the first day of his visit to India.
This is Oli’s first trip to New Delhi after a gap of two bitter years, during which he blamed India for being the brains behind Nepal’s 135-day blockade that began on September 2015 and lasted till February 2016, and also for weakening his government. Oli blamed India for brokering ties between the opposition Nepali Congress’s Sher Bahadur Deuba and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, who had joined hands with the opposition within a few months of the blockade in Nepal, to become the Prime Minister.
Before the national and provincial elections, held in December 2017 in Nepal, the Left leader had whetted the anti-India appetite to a fever pitch and reminded the electorate that India was behind the hardships caused to the people of Nepal during the four-month-long landlock. He has also blamed India for helping the Madhesis in blocking the passage of food, petroleum and other basic commodities during that time. During the polls in December last year, Oli joined hands with Prachanda again and swept the elections defeating the Nepali Congress.
After overcoming a faceoff with China in Bhutan’s Doklam plateau, India realised that it could not afford to push Nepal into China’s arms and thus apprehended the need to establish ties with its old antagonist. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the Nepalese leader twice to congratulate him on his victory in the Nepal Elections. He had also sent External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Nepal in February to invite the Nepalese Prime Minister to India.
India’s battle with China to influence Nepal is hotting up and the $2.5-billion Budhi Gandaki project is one such project in Nepal which is becoming one of the prime reasons of a tug-of-war between Delhi and Beijing. During Oli’s visit, PM Modi is expected to tell his Nepalese counterpart that India would not buy energy from them given they award any dam project to China.
The Budhi Gandaki river, which flows in Nepal, was awarded to China’s Gezhouba group in June last year, weeks after former Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda decided to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). But within months, after the Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba took over from Prachanda as Prime Minister, he had cancelled the dam project in November last year, saying the agreement to build it had been done in an “irregular and thoughtless manner”, reported IE. When Deuba had cancelled the project, there was a common talk in Nepal that India has influenced him to do so.
Though last month, Oli told a Chinese daily that he intended to revive the Budhi Gandaki, no matter what may come his way. According to him, Nepal was in an urgent need of developing hydropower projects as an alternative to importing high-priced petroleum from other countries, mostly from India. During Modi’s talk with Oli on Saturday, where they would lay the foundations stone to the $1.5 billion hydroelectric project in Nepal’s Sankhuwasabha district, the Prime Minister’s message of cooperation with Nepal will have a strategic caution to it.
India, in all probability, will buy a large part of the power that would be produced by the project, being built by the SJVN, much on the lines of its hydro cooperation model with Bhutan. Indian sources said similar terms could be applied to Nepal, given that Indian public sector or private companies be involved in building dams in Nepal. A senior government official told The Indian Express that one cannot expect India to purchase power from a Chinese-built project. If Nepal took China’s assistance to build dams, then China was welcome to buy back the power produced from there.