Motihari-Amlekhganj oil pipeline: India, Nepal energy diplomacy underway as China pushes BRI
Even as the Motihari-Amlekhganj pipeline deal was being inaugurated, China's foreign minister Wang Yi was in the Himalayan kingdom to "promote friendship between the two countries".
People watch the live broadcast on a screen as India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the Motihari-Amlekhganj petroleum pipeline project through a video conference
The inauguration of the Motihari-Amlekhganj oil pipeline jointly by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nepal's PM K.P. Sharma Oli via a video link has opened the region to a new energy dynamic with strategic long term ramifications.
The 69-km Motihari-Amlekhganj pipeline has a capacity of 2 million metric ton per annum which will provide petroleum products at affordable costs to the people of Nepal.
In fact, Nepal decided to cut oil prices by Rs 2 per litre after the pipeline was set in motion, a move set to benefit citizens.
The pipeline is a first-ever transnational petroleum pipeline in South Asia which is set to change the economic landscape of the region.
The Prime Minister's Office(PMO) had called the project a "symbol of India's close ties with Nepal meant to enhance energy security of Nepal."
"This India-Nepal energy cooperation project, the Motihari-Amlekhganj pipeline, is a symbol of our close bilateral relations. It will help to enhance the energy security of the region and substantially cut down on transit costs," the PMO said in a tweet.
India has invested Rs 3.5 billion which was completed in "record time", PM Modi pointed out.
"Timely completion of projects is the priority of the two governments," PM Modi said, adding, "People-to-people relations are the basis of our bilateral ties."
File photo of Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali (L) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi
Earlier, oil was carried by tankers from Nepal to India as part of an agreement since 1973.
The idea for the pipeline was first mooted in 1996. The pipeline inauguration comes at a time when China has been pursuing Nepal seeking to broadbase its influence in South Asia.
In fact, even as the pipeline deal was being inaugurated, China's foreign minister Wang Yi was in the Himalayan kingdom to "promote friendship between the two countries".
In Kathmandu, Wang Yi met Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.
Bhandari said Nepal has been actively participating in the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative(BRI) and stands ready to work with China to speed up the construction of the trans-Himalaya multi-dimensional connectivity.
China has been pushing South Asian nations to become partners in the BRI project which links China's road and waterways through complex routes across Asia and Europe. The road and waterways network is still in its nascent stage with China keen to spread it across the world to feed its markets at home.
However, not all countries favour the BRI, India including the European Union have resisted the idea even as several African nations have signed up to international trade project.
Nepal attaches great importance to China's international status, appreciates China's stance and proposition on climate change, the Nepali president told Wang, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.
Clearly, the development of the BRI was a key agenda during Wang's visit even as India-Nepal were opening a new front with the oil pipeline.
Interestingly, the pipeline runs from Motihari, located in east Champaran in Bihar, which is around 150 kms from Patna, the state capital.
The pipeline stretches 24 km into Nepal. It runs through Motihari to Raxaul and then to Nepal.
The pipeline which is linked to energy security will no doubt help Nepal tide over its oil crunch, even as China looks to boost its BRI initiative through the Himalayan corridor.