India seeks convenient date for commerce secretary-level talks

Kathmandu, December 21

The long-stalled Nepal-India commerce secretary-level talks seem to be gathering momentum as the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India has written to its counterpart asking the latter to send the convenient date and agenda for the inter-governmental committee (IGC) meeting.

IGC is the mechanism led by the commerce secretaries of both countries.

In a letter dated November 24, the Indian side has sought a convenient date and agenda for the commerce secretary-level talks.

The IGC meeting, which was alternately hosted by Nepal and India and organised annually, has been stalled for two years due to the SAARC summit held in Nepal last year, the devastating earthquakes of April and May, and also due to border blockade. Nepal had hosted the last IGC meeting on December 21 to 22, 2013.

Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae, during a programme organised by Nepal Chamber of Commerce on Friday, had also emphasised that the regular works of bi-lateral mechanism should not be affected.

After receiving the formal request from India, Nepal has been preparing to send its agenda for the IGC meeting. Prior to the IGC meeting, the usual practice is to hold an inter-governmental sub-committee (IGSC) meeting led by the joint secretaries of the commerce ministries of Nepal and India.

“Balancing trade and development of trade-related infrastructure will be Nepal’s top priority in the IGC meeting,” a high-level source at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies told The Himalayan Times.

“Nepal will request India to lower the non-tariff measures imposed by the government of India, such as quarantine-related issues on export of agricultural goods, finalisation of trans-shipment modality with India, and early construction of integrated check posts in Nepal, among others.”

As Nepal is going to implement automated system for customs transit declaration at Kolkata port for Nepal-bound third country cargoes, electronic data interchange for harmonisation of export-import code with India will also be prioritised.

Nepal will also seek transit with India to establish trade relations with Bhutan. In this regard, the country will seek access over the Indian territory from Kakarvitta or Bhairahawa to Phuntsholing. Phuntsholing — a southern border town of Bhutan — shares border with West Bengal of India.

Similarly, issues of pending letter of exchanges (LoEs) of crucial agreements with India will also be raised during the IGC meeting. LoE on amendment to treaty of transit for the movement of traffic to and from Visakhapatnam port to Nepal (by road or by rail) would allow Nepal to transport goods from Visakhapatnam Port using road and rail services.

LoE on operationalisation of rail transit through Singhabad to Rohanpur would pave the way to use the Rohanpur-Singhabad rail transit route as well as the Phulbari-Banglabandha over the Indian territory.

The LoE on Process Simplification and Additional Routes, which is for bulk cargo movement from two more routes of Kolkata-Nautanwa (Bhairahawa) and Kolkata-Jogbani (Biratnagar) are in line to be finalised and the commerce secretary-level talks is expected to provide necessary impetus to conclude these issues.