Nepal’s transit pact with China: India unperturbed

New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) India is unperturbed by Nepal’s signing a transit and transportation agreement with China during the visit of the Himalayan nation’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli to Beijing.

“Our age-old ties with Nepal are unique and special,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said during his weekly media briefing here on Tuesday.

“They are characterised by an open border based on shared history, geography, culture, close people-to-people ties, mutual security and close economic linkages,” Swarup said.

“We have at present 26 land customs stations with Nepal of which 10 can handle commercial cargo trucks.”

The transit and transportation agreement was among 10 agreements Nepal and China signed on Monday, a day after Oli began a week-long trip to China.

The visit is significant in the light of Nepal’s efforts to reduce its decades-old dependence on India after Madhesi protestors in the southern plains, agitated over a new constitution, blocked supply trucks coming in from India.

The five-month-long blockade caused huge crises as fuel and medicine supplies dried up. Kathmandu blamed New Delhi for supporting the protestors but the allegation has been denied. The blockade halted for months Nepal’s third-country trade, apparently prompting the Nepalese government to look for an alternative to India’s Haldia port.

The transit agreement with China gives Nepal an option to use the next nearest Tianjin port in China that is 3,000 km from Nepal border. Haldia port is 1,000 km away.

Swarup said that two integrated check points at Raxaul-Birgunj and Jogbani-Biratnagar were under construction and two more at Sunauli-Bhairawa and Nepalganj Road-Nepalganj would be undertaken in the next phase.

“Two rail links between Jogbani-Biratnagar and Jayanagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas are under construction and three more routes between Nepalganj Road-Nepalganj, New Jalpaiguri-Kakarbhitta and Nautanwa-Bhairawa will be undertaken in the next phase,” he said.

As for roads, the spokesman said 605 km of roads in phase one of the Terai road project were under construction of which 87 km has already been completed while 900 km more would be undertaken in the next phase.

He said a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Raxaul-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipeline was signed in August last year.

“The 600 MW Muzaffapur-Dhalkebar transmission line was inaugurated last month and India is exporting 330 MW of electricity to Nepal,” Swarup said.

Swarup also pointed out that two-thirds of Nepal’s global trade was with India and over 90 percent of its third country exports and imports transited through India.

Millions of Nepalis live and work in India and hundreds of thousands crisscross the open India-Nepal border every single day, he added.

“Of course, Nepal as a landlocked country is free to explore any practical option it wants but our relations with Nepal have their own natural logic,” the spokesman said.

“We are not in the comparison business. Is there any other country in the world which can have the kind of relationship that Nepal has with India?” he asked.

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