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Indian leader offers Nepal US$1 bil. in credit

KATMANDU, Nepal--Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Sunday a US$1 billion concessional line of credit for Nepal to use for development, including building hydropower plants in the energy-starved Himalayan nation.

Modi told Nepal's parliament that the financial assistance could be used for hydropower development and building other infrastructure. He also said he plans to double the electricity that India is supplying to Nepal, and that new transmission lines will soon be built to allow the country to import more power.

Nepal has suffered from major power shortages, with consumers facing power cuts of up to 12 hours a day because power plants are able to meet only half the total demand. Nepal's communist insurgency, which lasted until 2006, and ensuing political instability have hampered the construction of new power plants, and the country cannot afford to map out an energy strategy on its own.

Modi also said that once the power plants are built, India would buy electricity from Nepal.

Modi's visit is significant because India has major influence over both the economy and politics in the much smaller Himalayan nation, and supplies all of Nepal's oil needs and dominates much of its trade.

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