Nepal PM Dahal begins India visit, to seek energy, new air route deals

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Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal will seek a long-term deal to export hydroelectric power and the opening of new air routes through India during his visit to New Delhi beginning on Wednesday, officials said.

The four-day visit is Dahal’s first foreign trip since he was elected prime minister again in December. He has visited India twice before in two previous tenures as prime minister dating back to 2008.

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The visit is a tradition of new Nepali leaders making New Delhi their first foreign port of call after assuming office, underlining the strong ties between the neighbors.

Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud said Nepal was seekingmlong-term deals on energy, including more Indian investment in hydroelectric projects and the construction of transmission lines between the two countries.

“We also want India to facilitate the export of our electricity to Bangladesh,” Saud told reporters.

Nepal, which has the potential to generate up to 42,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power, hopes to produce about 3,500 megawatts by next year against its domestic demand of 2,000 megawatts.

Kathmandu wants to export the excess energy to power hungry India, its biggest economic and trade partner.

India is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure including hydropower plants, as New Delhi looks to grow its influence among its smaller neighbors, where China is also increasingly active.

During the visit, Dahal will urge India to open three more points along their border from which airlines can enter and exit Nepal’s air space. That would help boost air traffic to two new international airports -- one in the tourist town of Pokhara and the other near Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, officials said.

“This will save flight time to and from the west by about 15 minutes, reduce fuel consumption and make flights cheaper,”
Jannath Niroula, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), told Reuters.

Dahal, a 68-year-old former Maoist rebel leader, will meet his counterpart Narendra Modi on Thursday.

Modi has visited Nepal five times since becoming India’s prime minister in 2014, the last time in May 2022.

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