KATHMANDU Earthquake-hit Nepal received pledges of aid worth $4.4 billion on Thursday, or two-thirds of the amount needed over five years for reconstruction after a devastating earthquake two months ago, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said.

Half of the money pledged at an international conference in Kathmandu is in the form of grants and the rest is in the form of concessional loans, Mahat said.

“Nepal and concerned donors will have to negotiate the details of the projects, time frame and modalities of aid. Only after that the money will come and project implementation will begin,” Mahat told reporters at the end of the conference attended by delegates from 60 countries and aid agencies.

Two quakes, on April 25 and May 12, killed 8,832 people, injured more than 22,000 and forced tens of thousands into temporary shelters. Nepal’s government has estimated the cost of recovery at over $6.6 billion, equivalent to one third of its gross domestic product.

India and China alone pledged nearly $1.5 billion for impoverished Nepal, as the Asian giants try to help it back on its feet and expand influence in the buffer state.

India offered $1 billion. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the conference that a quarter would be in the form of grants and was over and above India’s existing aid pledges to Nepal. The rest would be loans.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been wooing Nepal and other small neighbours since he took office a year ago, as fears have grown that years of neglect and minor disputes with India have given China a chance to make inroads with Nepal.

“The relationship between India and Nepal is as old as history itself. We share ties of culture, religion, tradition, language, literature and mythology,” Swaraj said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pledged $483 million in grants to rebuilt after the quake, saying it wanted to focus on the sustainable development in the Himalayan nation.

“China will help Nepal in every way it can … to promote its socio-economic development,” Wang said. Both China and India flew in rescue teams soon after the 7.8 earthquake struck.

Nepal says the disaster destroyed more than 500,000 houses and pushed 700,000 more people to poverty.

Already one in four of Nepal’s 28 million people lives on a daily income of less than $1.25.

(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Nick Macfie and Hugh Lawson)

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Donors pledge $4.4 billion in Nepal quake aid
| Reuters