June 12: India has agreed in principle to allow Nepal to use Orissa-based Dhamra Port and Gujrat’s Mundra Port for overseas business. The agreement was reached between the two countries during the meeting of delegates of the two countries to review the Nepal-India Railway Service Agreement on June 5-7.
This agreement is a result of relentless effort of Nepal ever since 2009 to seek an alternative to Kolkata Port for overseas trade.
“The latest agreement with India will ease Nepal’s foreign trade,” said Secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, adding, “However, there is a lengthy process to complete before implementing this agreement. We need more discussions and preparations.”
According to Joint Secretary Navaraj Dhakal of the ministry, India has given permission to hold discussions with cargo companies holding license of the Department of Indian Railways to start cargo service up to Nepal’s border.
India has been positive to Nepal’s request to get access to sea ports and railway service in the recent days. This is not just limited to third-country trade but also for increasing connectivity and facilitating travellers to boost tourism in the long run, according to sources at the ministry.
According to a study conducted by Keshab Basyal, who holds a PhD degree on Nepali immigrants in India, the flow of Nepali migrants to and fro India every year is 400,000 to 500,000.
The occupancy of vehicles carrying Nepali migrants from western region of the country to the major cities of India is found to be 80 percent. It is estimated that the number of Nepalis living across India to be 1.5 million.
Meanwhile, Indians top the list of tourists visiting Nepal. They visit Nepal mainly for pilgrimage, mountaineering, trekking, business and recreation.
Tourism entrepreneurs say that Indian tourists spend more than visitors from other countries. However, due to lack of reliable transportation service in Nepal, most of the Indian tourists come to Nepal on reserved vehicles from India. Those who can afford use the air route to visit Nepal.
In this context, the proposed railway linking West Bengal of India to Nepal and other routes from the major border points would provide a great respite to travellers who have to face lots of hassles along the Nepal-India border.
According to former joint-secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Ravi Shankar Sainju, Nepal will develop into a transit hub in the future.
India had allocated a part of its budget of IRs 55 billion in 2017 for expanding its railway network up to Nepal’s border. Both countries believe that expanding the rail network would also facilitate other passengers.
Nepal is working on a project to set up the East-West Railway network. India thinks that the 945 kilometer railway would also facilitate the citizens of its northern-eastern states, according to sources at the ministry.
India’s Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland have a population of more than 450 million. They have been relying on a longer route to reach India’s capital New Delhi. The prospect of Nepal-India-Bangladesh rail service would cut short the travelling distance for the citizens of north-east states of India while visiting the capital.