New Delhi : Nepal is one of the South Asian nations where India and its strategic rival China vie for geopolitical influence.

Nepal wants India to build a hydroelectric project, which was conceived about six decades back, but could not be implemented although it was taken up and abandoned twice by China.

The proposed 1200 MW “West Seti and SR 6” hydropower project is likely to be discussed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lumbini in Nepal on Monday. Modi will have a meeting with Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in the birthplace of Gautama Buddha. He will also participate in an event being held on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti by the Lumbini Development Trust under the aegis of the Government of Nepal.

Deuba and Modi had a meeting in New Delhi on April 2, when they issued a Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation between India and Nepal. They agreed to expedite discussions for the finalisation of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the long- pending 6720 MW Pancheswor Multipurpose Project, another hydropower project proposed to be built by India in Nepal.

Kathmandu and New Delhi already had preliminary discussions on the proposal for India building not only the 750 MW West Seti hydropower project, but also the adjoining 450 MW SR 6 hydropower project in Sudur Paschim (Far West) province of Nepal. A source told DH in New Delhi that the meeting between the prime ministers of the two nations in Lumbini on Monday might add momentum to the discussion between the two governments on the proposed joint storage hydroelectric project.

The West Seti hydropower project was conceived by Nepal long back primarily to export electricity to India. French and Australian companies got involved with it in the 1980s, but it couldn’t take off.

The China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation (CMEC) 2009 agreed to invest in it and inked an agreement with an entity set up by the Government of Nepal. But it withdrew from the project by July 2011. China’s biggest hydroelectric company, Three Gorges International Corporation, took up the project in 2012 and signed an agreement with Nepal Electricity Authority in 2017 to develop it as a 750 MW hydropower project. But the state-owned company of the communist country withdrew from the project by 2020 citing the high cost of resettlement and rehabilitation of people who would have to relocate for building the reservoir for the hydropower project.

The Deuba government has of late linked the 750 MW West Seri project with the 450 MW SR 6 project and initiated discussion with New Delhi to develop both as a joint storage project with a combined generation capacity of 1250 MW. The project is proposed to be built on river Seti in far-western Nepal, with an estimated expenditure of over $ 2.5 billion.

Nepal is one of the South Asian nations where India and its strategic rival China vie for geopolitical influence. India a few years back adopted a policy that effectively barred the import of power from any hydropower plant built in Nepal or any other neighbouring nation with investment from China.

“In their bilateral talks, the two prime ministers will pick up from where they left off in Delhi just last month,” Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told journalists in New Delhi. “The two leaders will build on their productive conversations in Delhi, with a view to further expanding our shared understanding and cooperation in multiple areas including in hydropower development, partnership and connectivity.”