PM Oli urged to stress cross-border trade

Kathmandu, April 3

As the cost of trade logistics has been considered as the major bottleneck for industrialisation and export competitiveness, the government has been advised to talk with neighbouring India to provide necessary facilitation and development of cross-border trade infrastructure for Nepal's foreign trade during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's upcoming visit to the southern neighbour.

In the context of Nepal government's plan to develop the East-West Railway, the prime minister has been advised to talk with his Indian counterpart to develop the Inland Clearance Depot (ICD) in Dodhara Chadani of Province-7, as this part of the country is connected with the Asian Highway on the Indian side and is close to the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Mumbai.

Cargo containers shipped from Kolkata/Haldia port are trans-shipped to the destination port from JNPT, Mumbai, which raises the cost of exports substantially.

“If the Indian government agrees to provide assistance to develop ICD at Dodhara Chadani and provides JNPT as gateway port for foreign trade, it will substantially reduce the cost of the country's foreign trade,” said Laxman Bahadur Basnet, executive director of Nepal Intermodal Transport Development Board (NITDB). “The East-West Railway of Nepal will be commercially viable if we allow the government of India to ferry Indian cargo containers from one part of India to another via Nepal.”

Nepal had sought Indian assistance to develop ICD in Dodhara Chadani of far-west Nepal during commerce secretary-level talks in 2016 and also requested for necessary cooperation from the Indian side in aligning Indian customs facility, railways and road linkages and other related infrastructure and facilities with the proposed ICD in Dodhara-Chandani.

In pursuance to the decision made in commerce secretary-level meeting, a joint inspection of the infrastructural facilities, with the aim of developing an ICD at Dodhara-Chandani on Nepal side, was carried out by Indian and Nepali delegations on March 29. Ambassador of India to Nepal, Manjeev Singh Puri, had also visited the site and expressed commitment to develop far-west Nepal's border into a ‘happy border', breaking the traditional concept of a border as a ‘barrier'.

The ICD in Dodhara Chadani can be linked with the Asian highway after construction of 4.3 km road on the Indian side. India has so far expanded broad-gauge railway line to Khatima on the Indian side, through which Nepal's ICD at Dodhara Chadani can be linked via railway, which will ultimately connect Nepal's East-West Railway with Indian Railways. In this regard, it will be economical for Indian traders to supply goods to another part of India via Nepal.

On the other hand, the private sector has also recommended PM Oli to seek facility of seamless movement of vehicles via Siliguri Corridor, located on the Indian state of West Bengal, that connects India's northeastern states to the rest of India with Nepal and Bangladesh lying on either side of this corridor.

The government of India allows only a handful of cargo trucks to pass via this route every day citing security reasons. As per traders, it has created a barrier on the trade potential between Nepal and Bangladesh and on chances of Nepal being able to use Bangladeshi sea ports for third-country trade. But, Bhutan has been enjoying less restrictions compared to Nepal and Bangladesh even though Bhutan is another country linked with the so-called ‘Chicken's Neck' area, as per Rajan Sharma, a transportation logistics expert.

Sharma also said that railway movement from Muzaffarpur to Birgunj could also cut the cost of the country's foreign trade. “Private railways should also be allowed to ferry goods to Nepal to end the monopoly of Container Corporation of India, a subsidiary of the government of India's undertaking - Indian Railways,” according to Sharma.