New Delhi: Foreign Secretary Harsh V Shringla on Friday said, "India sees itself as Nepal’s foremost friend and development partner".
Addressing a special function at the Asian Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs (AIDIA) at Kathmandu on the second day of his visit to the Himalayan nation, Mr Shringla said: "Developmental experiences that we share with you (Nepal) are developmental experiences that have proved successful and beneficial in our own country. Given our similarities in environmental conditions and socio-economic challenges, there is so much we can learn from each other".
In this context, he mentioned that the 'iodised salt programme' that India supported in the hilly remote districts of Nepal years back had helped address the "chronic ailment of goitre, and mirrored India’s own battle against this pressing health problem".
"As someone from the hills myself I personally experienced the incidence of Goitre in many of our hill districts in India," Shringla said.
The Foreign Secretary is on a crucial visit to Nepal and during his stay in Kathmandu, he has already held key and one-on-one discussions with Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, President Bidya Devi Bhandari Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali and his Nepali counterpart Bharat Raj Paudyal.
Sources said the Foreign Secretary’s discussions with Nepal PM Oli on Thursday included a "candid review" of the state of the bilateral relationship. "Discussions also took place on specific meetings that could be scheduled to maintain high level engagement, and address issues of mutual interest," the source said.
The Foreign Secretary later met delegations of Nepali Congress and Madhesh leaders.
During their meeting on Nov 26, the sources maintained, Prime Minister Oli conveyed "Nepal’s desire to build on the momentum in the bilateral relationship and enhance the level of bilateral engagement".
Discussions took place on specific measures that could be taken to finalize key projects at the earliest, including the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, as well as launch new economic initiatives, sources said.
The need to resume people to people contacts, including commencement of an air travel bubble between India and Nepal, was also discussed.
Sources also said during high level talks, the special relations between India and Nepal, and the importance of respecting each other’s sensitivities was noted. "Both sides felt that we should focus on the positives of the wide-ranging relationship".
Foreign Secretary Shringla conveyed India’s interest in deepening economic linkages, promoting connectivity, expanding the development partnership and strengthening people-to-people contacts, particularly among the youth.
He also briefed PM Oli on the numerous projects being funded by India, which benefit all sections of Nepalese society. FS also invited Nepal to take advantage of India’s market and economic growth.
In his address at the AIDIA event, the Foreign Secretary said - "The Nepal-India relationship is intricate and exists in various paradigms. We share the same geography, civilisational heritage, culture and customs. There are affinities in religious and spiritual traditions, even food habits".
He further said: "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 incomplete and intrinsically and symbiotically linked to the development and modernisation of neighbouring countries such as Nepal".