India-Nepal Rail Link

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    • The rail link between Nepal and India is ready to resume on the neighbouring country’s first-ever broad gauge passenger service.
      • Nepal has been asked to start operations preferably by this year.
    • It remained shut for years but will now be seen again- in a new avatar.

    India-Nepal Rail Link

    • In 1937, the British had built a narrow-gauge line to ferry cargo, mainly logs, from Nepal to India. 
      • However, over time it became a popular passenger service before it was stopped in 2014 for conversion to broad gauge.
    • India decided to carry out the entire gauge conversion work, including trains to operate on the link in 3 phases.
      • The first stretch is a 34-km line between Bihar’s Jayanagar and Nepal’s Kurtha
        • In between these two lies the Hindu pilgrimage city of Janakpur Dham.
      •  The second stretch of 17 km from Kurtha to Bijalpura is also getting the finishing touches.
      • For the remaining portion up to Bardibas, the land is being handed over to IRCON.
    • The construction cost of Rs 784 crore for the entire stretch is being borne by India in the form of a grant to Nepal.
    • The Konkan Railway Corporation Limited has got the contract for operations and maintenance of the line.
      • It will train and develop manpower provided by Nepal, as per the bilateral understanding.
    • Nepal has been asked to start operations preferably by this year. 
      • It has been stressed by us that early operations will avoid the deterioration of assets.

    Significance of the Project

    • India Nepal close cultural linkages:
      • The link represents the fact that India and Nepal always had close cultural links.
      • Madhesis of Terai Region have a Relation of Roti-Beti with adjoining India.
    • Connectivity to the pilgrimage site of Janakpur:
      • Janakpur is considered the birthplace of Mata Sita, who is one of the most divine deities of Hinduism.
      • Hence it also has religious sentiments attached to it.
    • Countering Chinese Influence:
      • It will also counter Chinese influence by Track 2 and Track 3 diplomacy by increasing inter-country movements.
    • Inauguration of the first commercial rail service in Nepal by India:
      • It is also a matter of pride to complete a project in a foreign jurisdiction.
      • It shows the competence of Indian Companies after partial success at Chabahar Port.
    • Possibility of next project:
      • Earlier in Oct 2021, the India-Nepal Joint Working Group signed an agreement for a final location survey for another broad gauge line between Bihar’s Raxaul and Kathmandu.
        • When done, it will be a hill railway that will direct rail connectivity between Nepal’s capital city and the Indian network.
        • It will open multiple avenues for cross-border movement.

    India Nepal Relations

    • India and Nepal share a very cordial relation spanning across different fields.
    • Trade:
      • India is Nepal’s biggest trading partner.
      • Nepal has an escalating trade deficit with India.
      • Nepal and India have concluded 
        • bilateral Treaty of Transit, Treaty of Trade and the Agreement of Cooperation to Control Unauthorized Trade.
    • Infrastructure Projects:
      • India is developing different infrastructure in Nepal like
        • Dams: Arun-3 hydro project
        • Rail Links between Kathmandu and Raxual
    • Cultural linkage:
      • Hinduism is the major religion in Nepal.
      • Terai Belt of Nepal shares the relationship of shelter and marriage (Roti Beti ka Sambandh) with the Indian states of UP and Bihar.
    • Jobs and Other Humanitarian Support:
      • Nepalese are given jobs in the Indian Government and Army.
      • India has always extended a helping hand during different disasters.

    Irritants in the Indo-Nepalese Relations

    • Entry of China:
      • The Chinese Propaganda and debt diplomacy is luring Nepal.
      • Nepal too is using China Card to negotiate with India
    • Anti-Indian Sentiment post alleged Blockade by India after Constitutional crisis in Nepal:
      • India has been alleged to apply blockade after the Nepalese Constituent Assembly failed to acknowledge the demands of the Terai region Madhesis.

    Conclusion and Way Forward

    • It is one of the great opportunities for India to win back Nepal and ensure an integrated and united South Asia.
    • In accordance with Gujral Doctrine, India must keep on strengthening such ties.

    Source: IE