Kathmandu, 12 July, 2017 : The Nepali Embassy in New Delhi and the IDSA jointly organized a workshop on Nepal-India Trade, Transit and Connectivity as part of the Embassy's economic diplomacy initiative at Vishakhapatnam, India, on Wednesday.
Inaugurating the workshop, Ambassador of Nepal to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyaya said Nepali traders are keenly assessing how they can make the best and most beneficial use of the highly modern port facilities available at Visakhapatnam for transit, and thereby it was logical to choose the city to hold this discussion on trade and transit issues.
He added that we all are aware that trade, transit and connectivity constitute vital components of Nepal-India bilateral relations and India is not only our biggest trading partner but also the main transit country for our third country export and import.
Twenty years back, trade with India accounted for only a third of Nepal's total foreign trade whereas the proportion has now increased to almost two third and Nepal's trade linkage with India has increased both in volume and proportion, Ambassador Upadhyaya said according to a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry.
Ambassador Upadhyaya said that as good as the growth in trade volume is, growing trade deficit with India has been a matter of serious concern. He said that there are some key related questions including how can Nepal bridge up this unsustainable gap between what it exports and what it imports. "Does our bilateral trade treaty require a review, particularly in the context of the evolving arrangement under SAFTA in order to ensure that exports from Nepal would receive a more facilitative treatment than what is already there in SAFTA?, he queried.
Stating that cross border infrastructure and state-of-the-art connectivity means are the sine qua non of strong economic engagement and this is the area that did not receive adequate focus and commitment in the past, Upadhyaya said geography is easy, time and cost of building highways and railways are less but we did not adequately cash on this gift of geography for years in order to build up better connectivity.
Ambassador Upadhyaya said there are at least a dozen points in the proximity of Nepal-India international border, for example, where Indian railway heads reached decades ago. Long before, we could have extended railways by some more kilometers to reach Nepal and sped up trade, transit, flow of tourists and movements of common people in all those points.
He said, "We are implementing cross border railway projects at two principal border points and three more such cross border railway projects are in pipeline. Just a few months back the announcement by Railway Minister of India about linking Kathmandu with Indian railways turned out to be welcome news in Nepal. We hope for the early concretization of the project."
Our roads are turning out to be better on both sides. However, in most of these places, cross border roads still pass through the bottlenecks of crowded marketplace and our trucks wait for hours to cross these crowded stretch of a few kilometers -- sometimes ridiculously longer than the time they spend to ply for miles over the newly built highways. Both governments as well as other stakeholders on both sides are cognizant of the situation and we have started to upgrade infrastructure. What is required is some more speed in the implementation of projects like ICPs and the roads linking the national highways on both sides, adds the release.