Narendra Modi to launch work on Nepal’s biggest hydroelectric project

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks with the media as Nepal's Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, also known as K.P. Oli, stands next to him during his visit at Janaki Mandir, a Hindu temple dedicated to goddess Sita, in Janakpur, Nepal May 11, 2018. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Vastavam web: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Friday initiate work on Nepal’s biggest hydroelectric project, being built by an Indian company, as he seeks to regain ground in the Himalayan republic where China has made deep inroads.India has an open border with Nepal and tens of thousands of Nepalis work in India. The neighbours share close religious and cultural bonds.

But India has been slow to implement projects despite ambitious plans, and it has also often been a target of Nepali politicians critical of what they see as meddling by their overweening, much bigger neighbour.“As Nepal enters a new era of consolidating the gains of a democracy and achieving economic growth, India remains a steadfast partner,” Modi said on Twitter before seeing out on his visit.

The hydro project, which is expected to cost $1.04 billion and is being built by state-run Indian firm Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Limited, will be the single biggest foreign investment project in cash-strapped Nepal.Project officials say they are in final stages of agreement with the State Bank of India for investment of about 36 billion Indian rupees ($535 million), with the rest coming from equity investment by SJVN.Modi is visiting for the first time since protests for a greater say in government by ethnic Madhesis, in Nepal’s lowland south, led to the closure of the border for months in 2015 and 2016.