India often faces criticism from its immediate neighbourhood that it holds the development projects but does not deliver on time. There was suggestion, India to speed up the development projects in Nepal in the face of growing Chinese influence.
However, in the last couple of years, India’s image of not completing projects on time has gradually changed with completion of few vital projects. The joint projects are showing welcome signs of professionalism.
Weakness in Indian infrastructure projects
The Mahakali agreement has remained in limbo for over two decades.
In 2008, the collapse of Koshi’s embankment unleashed massive flooding, highlighting India’s failure to take precautionary measures and its refusal to take responsibility.
Many joint projects are still mired with bureaucratic hurdles, the non-operational railway line from Janakpur in Nepal to Jaynagar, India.
Hydropower projects funded by India did not make much progress in the last two decades in Nepal due to various reasons. Arun-3 project was one of the much-talked and pending issues since 1990s.
Progress in infrastructure projects
Improving the connectivity between the two countries, in implementation mode. Noticeably, the Nepalese Prime Ministers’ India visits are known to majorly include issues of pending projects in communiqués.
- In the last couple of years, there have been some visible progresses in hydropower projects. For instance, Arun-3 hydro-electricity projects have gained momentum.
- When it comes to energy cooperation, two countries have already agreed to go for energy banking concept and two sides are working to operationalize it. According to this concept, Nepal will export power to India during the summer season which exceeds imports during the dry season.
- One of the remarkable projects completed before the stipulated time framework is cross-border petroleum pipeline.
- In September 2019, inaugurated the Motihari-Amalekhgunj petroleum pipeline, first of its kind in South Asia.
- The 69-km pipeline is reducing the cost of transportation of fuel from India to Nepal.
- This project is taken as a game-changing project in Nepal.
- Completion of 7 out of 14 India-funded roads in Terai region of Nepal. These roads will strengthen Terai road network in Nepal and improve the movement of people and economic activities in the region.
- Coming to the road network, two countries are connected as Kathmandu-New Delhi direct bus service is already in place. Similarly, Nepal’s other few big cities are directly connected to Delhi through bus services.
- there may be an announcement on the proposed Ramayan circuit.
Inland waterways network
- Nepal has been keen to work in unison with India. India has already agreed to allow Nepal to use three inland waterways, thus expanding its transit options.
- Nepal can operate its own vessels on the river Ganga. India has given consent to grant access to the Kolkata-Kalughat, Raxual; Kolkata-Sahebgunj, Biratnagar and Kolkata-Varanasi-Raxual routes for waterways.
- India has developed a waterway on the Ganges River which connects Varanasi and the seaport of Haldia, Kolkata. If Nepal gets access to waterways, it will facilitate movement of cargo which it imports from third countries to Nepal.
- Railway projects –
- There has been substantial progress in the railway connectivity as well. At least six railway projects are proposed and there have been some progress in the recent times.
- Unlike Nepal-China railway line that is uniquely placed with difficult geography, the construction of Kathmandu-Raxual railway line is something very much possible as per the earmarked budget and construction plan.
- Jaynagar (India)-Janakpur (Nepal) to Bardibas in Nepal,
- Jogbani in India to Biratnagar in Nepal,
- Nautanwa in India to Bhairahawa in Nepal,
- Rupaidiha in India to Nepalgunj in Nepal,
- New Jalpaiguri in India to Kakarbhitta in Nepal, and
- Kathmandu-Raxual Mainly after the talk of Chinese railway
Integrated Check-Post (ICP)
- The tasks of construction of integrated check posts have gained momentum in the past couple of years.
- The Integrated Check-Post (ICP) in Biratnagar was inaugurated with some modern facilities such as electronic weighbridges, fire safety, warehousing facilities including the refrigerated cargo, 24×7 monitoring through CCTV and public announcement systems.
- Earlier in 2018, India handed over the Integrated Check Post (ICP) Birgunj to Nepal.
- Raxual (India)-Birgunj (Nepal),
- Saunali (India)–Bhairahawa (Nepal),
- Jogbani (India)-Biratnagar (Nepal) and
- Nepalgunj Road (India)-Nepalgunj (Nepal).
Out of four, two have been already completed and remaining two is being constructed.
- India should be serious on completing the pending projects
- Irrespective of diplomatic high and low, India and Nepal should give top priority to speed up the development projects which can contribute to maintain cordial ties between two countries.
- The meeting of existing bilateral mechanisms should take place on regular basis.
- Making the initiatives productive has been a key challenge before the policymakers in both sides, now the reckoning should be to calibrate the shifting fundamentals and keep the policies and action in order.