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India proposes Kathmandu to Delhi, Kolkata rail links

Kathmandu, February 20, 2017: India has expressed interest to link Kathmandu with two Indian cities, New Delhi and Kolkata, using direct railway lines in a bid to strengthen cross-border connectivity and facilitate movement of people between the two countries.

“These two railway tracks must be built soon to increase Nepal’s connectivity with India,” Indian Railways Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said while delivering a keynote speech at the Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017, which kicked off on Sunday. “I will give priority to build such networks soon.”

Stating that infrastructure was prerequisite for higher economic growth, Prabhu urged Nepal’s government and private sector to ramp up investment in construction of physical infrastructure. Requesting foreign investors to invest in Nepal’s infrastructure development, he said such investment will offer double benefit to them.

“If you invest in infrastructure in a country with wide infrastructure gap, you will get good return on investment. Also, economic growth triggered by infrastructural development will provide additional benefits to investors,” the Indian minister told the two-day summit organised by the Confederation of Nepalese Industries in association with the government and Youth Community for Nepalese Contractors.

Nepal needs to invest up to $18 billion in infrastructure projects by 2020 to remove binding constraints to economic growth, says a World Bank report. Of the total amount, up to $7 billion should go to the energy sector, especially development of hydropower projects, and another $5.5 billion should go towards the transport sector, the multilateral lending agency has said.

“Currently, our focus is on development of infrastructure in energy and transport sectors,” said Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. “I want to assure you that your investment would be safe in Nepal and the government is committed to creating a favourable climate for foreign investors.” Participants of the summit also urged Nepal to increase its infrastructure investment from 4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the last 15 years to 8 to 12 percent of the GDP.

“By doing this, Nepal can accomplish key infrastructure milestone by 2030, such as generating 10,000 MW of electricity, connecting all cities and local bodies with blacktopped roads, completing construction of [Kathmandu-Tarai] Fast Track and other expressways, having modern international airports, providing quality basic services and expanding irrigation networks across the country,” said Wencai Zhang, vice president of the Asian Development Bank.

“These infrastructure projects can fully unleash Nepal’s development potential.”

Zhang also assured ADB’s support in Nepal’s effort to deepen regional integration through cross-border road linkages and regional power trade. The summit is being attended by leading global business leaders.