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India to build Raxaul-Kathmandu rail line; announcement during PM’s Nepal visit

Ashok Tuteja | New Delhi |

India will build a strategic railway link between Raxaul in Bihar and Kathmandu in Nepal to facilitate people-to-people contact and bulk movement of goods.

The project is expected to be given the green signal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal on 11-12 May, highly-placed sources said on Tuesday. India and Nepal were committed to implementing the ambitious project as soon as possible, sources added.

The project report of the rail line would be prepared by top officials of the two countries in the coming weeks and months. They would also give to the two governments the estimated cost of the project and the time-line for completing it, sources added.

The rail project is considered significant in strategic circles since China proposes to build a railway line between Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Kathmandu by 2022, with an apparent aim of reducing Kathmandu’s dependence on India.

Beijing has also suggested building a railway line between India, Nepal and China but the proposal has not found favour with mandarins at the foreign office in New Delhi. Therefore, China avoided referring to the project at the recent Wuhan Summit between PM Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Sources said the objective of the Raxaul-Kathmandu rail line was to expand “connectivity” between the two neighbours and “enhance people-to-people linkages and promote economic growth and development”.

The two countries also propose to complete the stretch of railway lines from Jayanagar to Janakpur/Kurtha and from Jogbani to Biratnagar Custom Yard by the end of this year.

This will be Modi’s third visit to the Himalayan nation after assuming office in May 2014.

Kathmandu’s local governing body will hold a civic reception in his honour during the visit. Prior to his arrival in Kathmandu, Modi will visit Janaki temple in Janakpur in southern Nepal and Muktinath Temple situated in Mustang district of northwest Nepal. In Janakpur, the provincial government will separately organise a civic reception in honour of the Indian leader before he flies to Mustang and Kathmandu.