India will provide the Lao People's Democratic Republic the first tranche worth $72.55 million for two power projects as part of a package of monetary and technical assistance in areas ranging from power and irrigation to culture.

This was announced by President Pratibha Patil in Vientiane on Friday in country delegation level talks with her counterpart President Choumally Sayasone of the Lao PDR.

“Giving modern content to a historical relationship” is how the Indian side described the wide-ranging package. Lao PDR already receives 94 per cent of India's tariff lines under the duty free tariff preference scheme meant for the least developed countries. Once Laos completes its Free Trade Agreement in goods notification this will extend to 100 per cent coverage.

The agreements committed to on Friday cover several areas. In the field of culture, a cultural exchange programme has been signed for 2011-2013, the centre piece of which is a project for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) assistance in the restoration of the 6th century temple complex of Vat Phou in the province of Champassak. This pre-Ankorian site, established by the Khmer rulers, was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2001. Work on the complex that was started by the ASI in 2009 will be resumed under the present agreement. At the talks, Ms. Patil informed her Laos' counterpart that with the approval of the Nalanda University Bill by Parliament, India was looking forward to receiving students from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries including Laos.

The two leaders performed a “virtual” inauguration of the 115 KV Paksong Bangyo double circuit transmission line located in Champassak province, for a length of 53 km constructed by Angelique International Ltd, a New Delhi-based engineering and construction company. India provided a $ 10 million line of credit for this in 2008. The company has also constructed the Namsong Hydro Project.

The new commitment for $ 72.55 million was made for a 230 KV Double Circuit Transmission Line from Nabong to Thabok with sub stations ($ 34.68 million), and the 15 MW Nam Boun 2 hydro power project ($ 37.86 million). In addition, Laos sought $30 million more credit for the development of irrigation schemes in four provinces. India has spent or committed a total credit line of $162 million to Laos.

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