Trade body deplores campaign against Indian JVs in Nepal


Kathmandu : With a section of Nepal’s media keeping up a smear campaign against Indian joint ventures in Nepal and distorting the Indian government’s concern, the Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI) Wednesday expressed concern, asking for a halt to the “(vitiating of) the economic environment”.

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Issuing a statement, NICCI said the controversy about some products manufactured by Indian JVs in Nepal and their advertising in the Nepali media should be resolved amicably.

“For the sake of progress in trade and commerce, NICCI asks all concerned to take an objective and practical view of the situation and work towards an amicable resolution,” the statement said.

The concern came after a private media group, Kantipur, smarting under Indian ayurvedic giant Dabur India’s Nepal entity Dabur Nepal’s decision to advertise with other media organisations, whipped up a smear campaign, accusing Dabur Nepal of marketing substandard fruit juice products.

The campaign spread to the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu when the latter expressed concern at the attack with the television station and dailies run by the Kantipur group accusing India of trying to muzzle Nepal’s media.

Besides Dabur Nepal, in the past Bottlers Nepal, the distributors of Coke, and PepsiCo have also come under attack from Nepal’s media. However, the ongoing one, running for several weeks, has been the most savage.

The government of Nepal has remained a mute spectator though India is Nepal’s biggest trade partner, accounting for 58 percent of Nepal’s merchandise trade and one-third of trade in services.

It is also the single largest source of foreign direct investment, running over 450 projects that together have an investment of over Rs.1,400 crore – 43 percent of all foreign direct investment (FDI) in Nepal.

Besides Dabur Nepal, some other top-grossing Indian ventures in Nepal are Surya Nepal in which tobacco major ITC holds majority stakes, Unilever Nepal, the Nepal venture of Unilever India, United Telecom, the first private telephone service provider in Nepal, Nepal SBI, the State Bank of India’s JV in Nepal, and the Manipal Group which runs a teaching hospital in Pokhara.

The nearly 150 Indian ventures operating in Nepal range from insurance, education, power and tourism.

“Nepal must attract FDI with more and more value additions so that it may industrialise faster and also increase trade with India to reduce the trade deficits with our trading partners,” NICCI said.

A Nepali weekly linked the growing media attacks to the opposition Maoists’ failure to head the new government of Nepal despite five rounds of election in parliament since July.

In a front-page report – “Searching for nationalism even in Real juice” – the Ghatana Ra Bichar weekly said Wednesday the former guerrillas had joined the attack on Dabur Nepal and the Indian Embassy because of their “angst” at not being able to return to power and the prevailing belief that patriotism meant attacking India.

It also said the statement issued by the Indian Embassy to defend Indian investors was interpreted by the Maoists as an attack on Nepal’s sovereignty and independence and attempt to curb the Nepali media.

“We condemn any attempt to curb the freedom of the press but the situation has worsened due to the politicisation of the matter,” the weekly said.