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India-Nepal trade pacts to be signed next week


Kathmandu : India and Nepal will sign a revised trade treaty and an agreement to control unauthorised trade from a third country in Kathmandu next week, nearly two months after the two neighbours initialled the pacts during Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s official visit to New Delhi in August.

Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, who is arriving in Kathmandu Oct 27 on a two-day visit to attend the meeting of the eight-member regional bloc South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), will sign the treaties along with his Nepali counterpart Rajendra Mahato.

Sharma will attend the SAARC meet to discuss the South Asian Free Trade Area agreement signed by the member countries in Islamabad in 2004.

The trade treaty will be the upgradation of the earlier one signed in 1991, giving it a tenure of seven years from the earlier five, while the new unauthorised trade control treaty will replace the 1996 draft.

India remains land-locked Nepal’s largest trading partner and during the prime minister’s visit, both sides agreed that enhancing bilateral trade would be given priority by both.

The Inter Governmental Committee (IGC) at the level of commerce secretaries has been asked to look into the relevant issues to promote trade, investments and industrialisation in Nepal, expanding complementarities of bilateral trade on a sustainable basis and removing barriers to trade and investment.

The IGC as well as the commerce secretaries of both countries are expected to meet in Kathmandu in November after a two-day meet between the home secretaries.

As per the revised trade treaty, India will allow Nepal to use its Vishakhapatnam port for the movement of transit traffic to and from Nepal. It is also ready to consider allowing Nepal an additional sea port on its western coast.

Nepal has pledged to take necessary measures for the promotion of an investor friendly and enabling business environment to encourage Indian public and private sector investments in Nepal, and a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement is expected to be signed in future.

Also on the anvil is a new Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation.

To boost border management and trade, India has also agreed to begin the construction of two Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at Birgunj-Raxaul and Biratnagar-Jogbani at an estimated cost of Rs.2,000 million as well as upgrade the cross-border rail links with Nepal at an estimated cost of Rs.6,800 million.

India will also provide technical assistance for establishing a Central Depository System (CDS) in Nepal at an estimated cost of Indian Rs.92 million towards consultancy, development of application software and training. Relevant stakeholders in Nepal such as the Nepal Stock Exchange Limited (NEPSE) are to provide the necessary infrastructure for the system.

In November, the Joint Committee on Water Resources is also expected to meet in Kathmandu to accelerate the implementation of the Pancheshwar Multi-purpose Project by expediting the finalisation of the Terms of Reference for the Pancheshwar Development Authority and the Detailed Project Report of the Pancheshwar Project.