Sat, 16 Jan 2021

New Delhi [India], November 27 (ANI): Asserting "genetic" similarities, India on Friday assured Nepal that meeting its requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine would be a priority, once a candidate is finalised and rolled out.

"I would like to assure the people of Nepal that, once a vaccine is rolled out, meeting Nepal's requirements would be a priority for us. Given our genetic profiles, what works for India is likely to work for Nepal as well. Together we will recover from the pandemic and protect our people," Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who is on a two-day visit to Nepal, said on Friday.

He added India was "only too glad to extend assistance to Nepal in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak, be it equipment and supplies, or ensuring uninterrupted flow of goods across the border". "We also assisted in repatriating Nepalese citizens from various countries, along with our own. Yesterday (Thursday), I had the privilege of handing over 2,000 vials of Remdesivir injections to the foreign minister. I would like to emphasise our continued and uninterrupted commitment to Nepal."Speaking at the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs on Friday, he reminded Nepal that as a neighbour and friend, India sees itself as the country's natural and instinctive responder in times of crisis. "The devastating earthquake of 2015 was a test for the people and the government of Nepal. The courage and resilience of the citizens of Nepal, the grit and determination in rebuilding lives and livelihoods, was an inspiration for us in India and across the world. On our part, we were happy to contribute to this process, as first responders and then towards long-term reconstruction," he said.

While India's earthquake-related assistance was USD 1 billion, "its true value is not in monetary terms", he said.

He said India's relationship with Nepal rests on four pillars -- development cooperation, stronger connectivity, expanded infrastructure and economic projects, and easier and enhanced access to educational opportunities in India for the young people of Nepal.

"Underlying all of these, India will work to Nepal's priorities. The structure that the pillars hold up is also well-defined and unchanging. And in all this, technology, particularly digital, is to my mind a force multiplier," the Ministry of External Affairs quoted him as saying.

He said the Nepal-India relationship is intricate and exists in various paradigms. "We share the same geography, civilisational heritage, culture and custom. The people-to-people linkages are so strong and powerful that quite frankly we in government only complement these," he further said.

He added the recent years have given the relationship a new momentum. "For India, Nepal is fundamental to our neighbourhood-first approach. India's development and modernisation are intricately and symbiotically linked to the development and modernisation of the neighbouring countries such as Nepal," he said.

On developmental projects in Nepal with India's assistance, the foreign secretary said that the projects like High-impact Community Development Projects "are tailored to the needs of the local community, create community assets, and promote socio-economic welfare at the grassroots level".

"Such development projects have been implemented in all 77 Nepali districts and over a 100 of them have been completed since 2014 when our Prime Minister visited Nepal for the first time after he took over the post. They cover diverse sectors such as education, health, irrigation, drinking water, preservation of culture, skill development, youth training, and agriculture. These are projects that have an immediate and positive impact on the lives of people, touching everybody in society," he said.

As health and education are crucial bridges in the bilateral relationship, Shringla said that 70 schools and 150 health facilities are coming up in 12 districts of Nepal with India's support.

Stressing on the bilateral relationship amid the recent map controversy when Nepal claimed several Indian territories to be its own, Shringla said that relation goes back to centuries. "An element of our cooperation that is often missed is the restoration and conservation of the cultural heritage of Nepal. Some years ago, at your request, we shared proposals for the conservation of monuments in the revered Pashupati temple complex. After the earthquake of 2015, India cooperated with Nepal in the restoration of 30 heritage locations, including the iconic Seto Machindranath temple in Kathmandu, the Hiranyavarna Mahavihar at Patan, and the Jangam Matha at Bhaktapur. Our best domain specialists are at the service of the living history of Nepal," he said.

Shringla stressed on enhancing cross-border connectivity and infrastructure projects as they "unlock the potential of millions and in millions".

"Physical connectivity projects such as highways, rail and air links, and inland waterways enhance the movement of goods and people. Energy connectivity, whether power transmission lines or petroleum pipelines, contributes to the well-being of each other's citizens, and builds mutual trust and partnerships. Digital connectivity through optical fibre networks is our route to the future, particularly, and as we find in India, with remote access to education, healthcare and other services through the digital medium. Finally, trade facilitation through upgraded border infrastructure makes for easier transit and seamless commerce," he added.

He further said that India's markets are open for Nepal companies, start-ups and the "teeming talent pool".

"Nepal's hydropower potential can be a major source of clean energy for the subcontinent and an economic game-changer for your country. Together we can find solutions to climate change and environmental concerns that trouble us. Together Nepal's youth and India's young people can explore the exciting age of technology and innovation. India's education institutions, research and skilling centres, and start-up ecosystem are primed to forge partnerships with Nepal," he said.

Shringla also met Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his Nepalese counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyel.

During his meeting with the foreign minister, Shringla conveyed an invitation from External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to Gyawali to visit India for the next round of the Joint Commission Meeting. (ANI)

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