Kathmandu: Nepal wants to attract more Indian investments in its energy sector specifically for the development of hydro-power, Nepal's Foreign Minister NP Saud said on Wednesday, underlining that the Himalayan nation wants a power deal with India so that it can export electricity to Bangladesh as well by utilising the Indian grid. Foreign Minister Saud, who is accompanying Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' on a four-day official visit, also told PTI that a wide range of issues, including trade, transit, connectivity and border issues will be covered during bilateral talks.
'Prachanda' will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and other leaders in New Delhi to further strengthen the age-old, multifaceted and cordial ties.
Saud also said, "We would also like to have India's line of credit for the construction of transmission lines." Nepal wants to attract more Indian investment in the energy sector. "We want India's investment for the development of hydro-power," he said. We would also like to have India's line of credit for the construction of transmission lines," Saud told PTI at his residence at Bhaisepati.
Foreign Minister Saud said Nepal wants to reach a long-term power deal with India, adding it would like to export its electricity to Bangladesh through the Indian grid. In January, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) sought approval from the Indian authorities to export 50 MW of electricity to Bangladesh through India's existing transmission infrastructure, in line with an agreement reached between Nepal and Bangladesh in August, according to officials.
Nepal will also discuss with India to provide alternative air routes to the country during Prime Minister Prachanda's visit, he said. "Since the existing Simara air entry point has become too congested we would like to have alternative air entry points like Mahendranagar, Nepalgunj, Janakpur and Bhairahawa and for this, we want India's permission," he pointed out.
The air route of Mahendranagar is very important for us due to its short duration and cost-effectiveness, he added. "A wide range of issues including energy cooperation, water resources, trade, transit, connectivity and border issues among others will be covered during bilateral talks between Nepalese and Indian officials in Delhi," Saud said.
During the visit, the Prime Ministers of Nepal and India will inaugurate a canal built in the Mahakali River through remote control system and release water meant for irrigation purposes on both sides of the land, he said. This visit will be the 68-year-old Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist Centre) leader's first official visit abroad after assuming office in December 2022.
Nepal and India have a centuries-old relationship, which is determined by common culture, geography and people-to-people relationship, he said. The governments of the two countries can only support and sustain the relationship.
"Our main challenges are to tackle the outstanding issues by forging understanding on the basis of priority and to move forward by forging collaboration in various areas of development. In this way, we can sort out differences if there are any," Saud said.
During the visit, Nepal and India will also discuss matters relating to the renewal of the transit treaty between the two countries, Saud said. "The transit treaty has already expired in 2019 and Nepal wants to renew it as soon as possible because it is very important for landlocked Nepal." The officials of the two countries are already engaged in preparation for signing the transit treaty, he added.
Nepal has a huge trade deficit with India and to reduce this gap we would like to have a concession in customs duty for our products being exported to India, he pointed out. "We will also discuss India's assistance in the construction of some bridges that would connect far-West Nepal's Dadeldhura district with Uttarakhand of India to facilitate the transport of people and goods," said Saud.
Nepal wants to export its jute products to India to boost its export trade and for that, we need a waiver of excise duty, he said. Nepal also wants collaboration with India in the areas of agriculture, he said. Nepal wants hybrid seeds of coffee and sugarcane from India and an agreement to this effect will also be signed during the visit, he said. Nepal is also expecting to bring in hybrid water buffalo from India to promote its livestock business, he added.
On the boundary issue, he said a joint boundary working group is already working on it. Although most of the boundary areas have already been demarcated there are some border points which need to be addressed by the two countries. The concerned government officials of the two countries will resolve the outstanding issues through dialogue and negotiations, the Nepalese foreign minister said.
According to the Department of Customs, imports from India to Nepal declined 17.61 per cent to Rs 656.8 billion in the first eight months of the current fiscal year ended in mid-March, compared to the same period last fiscal year. The export from Nepal to India declined 37.54 percent to Rs 74.21 billion during the review period. The trade deficit with India stood at Rs 582.58 billion during the review period.
The import from India to Nepal increased 23.52 percent to Rs 1.2 trillion during 2021-2022, compared to the previous fiscal year. Nepal's exports to India increased 45.92 per cent on-year to Rs 155.22 billion in the last fiscal year. Nepal's trade deficit with India was at Rs 1 trillion in the last fiscal year.