India urged to ease cross-border vehicle movement

Kathmandu, December 17

Commerce and Supplies Minister Ganesh Man Pun has called on Indian State Minister for Commerce and Industry, Nirmala Sitharaman, to ease movement of vehicles across Nepal-India border points to facilitate entry of essential goods into the country from India.

Minister Pun made the request yesterday on the sidelines of 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) being held in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Nepal has been trying to resolve political issues domestically. So, political issues should not come in the way of bilateral trade and economic development,” a statement issued today by the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations in Geneva quoted Minister Pun as saying.

The minister also told the Indian state minister that the security situation along Nepal-India border points was normal and India should bring all the bilateral trade routes back into operation.

Nepal has been facing shortage of petroleum products and other essential goods due to protests in the Tarai that borders India and blockade on Nepal-India border points.

“The disruptions on the border points that have prolonged for three months are likely to create a humanitarian crisis, as hospitals lack essential drugs and food products are in short supply,” the minister said. “These problems have also badly affected various sectors, including manufacturing, finance and trade, and have hit the economy hard.”

But trade disruptions have not only affected Nepalis, the minister further said. “They have also caused business losses in India. So, livelihoods of millions of people on both sides of the border points have been affected,” the minister added.

In response, Sitharaman said India has not imposed trade embargo on Nepal and does not have any plans to do so. “The security situation in bordering areas is unfavourable. So, some of the cargo trucks have been stranded at border points, which have affected supplies,” the statement quoted Sitharaman as saying.

Separately, Minister Pun also reached out to his Bangladeshi counterpart to conclude at the earliest all bilateral and related agreements that are at various stages of negotiation.

“The commerce minister of Bangladesh described Nepal as a good friend of Bangladesh from the SAARC region, and assured Minister Pun that Bangladesh would be ready to cooperate with Nepal at all times,” the statement says.

Minister Pun is leading an 11-member delegation during the conference, which kicked off on December 15 and is concluding on December 18.

Minister Pun has already participated in the Second Phase Pledging Conference of the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) that succeeded in securing $90 million funds from different donors to implement the EIF second phase programme. The programme seeks to enhance the trade capacity of least developed countries (LDCs) and build their export base.

The Nepali delegation also attended an LDC Trade Ministers’ Meeting on the eve of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference.

During the meeting, Naindra Prasad Upadhaya, secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, called upon WTO members to provide meaningful market access opportunities and capacity building assistance to LDCs to enhance their share in global trade. At the end of the meeting, the LDC Trade Ministers unanimously adopted a 31-point joint declaration encompassing LDCs’ priorities and concerns.