India, Nepal agree to expedite pending projects

New Delhi/Kathmandu, Oct 27 (IANS) India and Nepal on Thursday agreed to expedite implementation of the seven projects on infrastructure, cross-border connectivity and utilisation of Indian funds for Nepal’s reconstruction following the April 2015 earthquake.

An agreement in this regard was reached during the fourth meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission meeting held at the Foreign Minister-level in New Delhi.

According to the Indian External Affairs Ministry, a comprehensive review of all aspects of India-Nepal relations under five broad clusters was undertaken at the meeting.

These clusters are political, security and boundary, economic cooperation and infrastructure, trade and transit, power and water resources and culture and education.

The Joint Commission decided to convene within a month the first meeting of the ‘joint oversight mechanism’ comprising officials of both the countries to expedite the implementation of all ongoing bilateral cooperation projects, an official statement said.

Both countries had agreed to set up such a mechanism to clear the bottlenecks in India-funded projects in the Himalayan country.

The Foreign Secretary of Nepal and the Indian Ambassador to Nepal will lead their respective sides to help clear glitches in the projects funded by India.

The statement said the two sides agreed to clear detailed project reports on roads, Mahakali Bridge and irrigation projects to be implemented through concessional loans provided by the Government of India in 2014.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in August 2014, India announced an assistance of $1 billion to execute various projects in Nepal.

Both sides also agreed for the expeditious completion of the first phase of the Terai roads in the southern plains.

Discussions were also held on a new concessional loan for development of Terai roads in the second phase as well as some other projects.

The statement said both sides agreed for the early completion of two cross-border rail link projects — the Biratnagar-Jogbani and Bardibas-Bijalpura-Jaynagar projects — and initiation of works for three other cross-border rail projects, namely the Nepalgunj-Nepalgunj Road, Kakarbhitta-New Jalpaiguri, and Bhairahawa-Nautanawa rail links.

A consensus was arrived at on the early completion of works of integrated checkpost at Birgunj on the Nepali side and commencement of construction of ICP at Biratnagar in Nepal.

India is constructing four ICPs at key trading points on both sides of the border.

The meeting agreed for early implementation of the Hetauda Polytechnic project undertaken through Indian assistance and finalisation of the projects to utilise grant and loan components offered by India for reconstruction.

On bilateral trade, the Nepali side requested India to take concrete measures to increase Nepal’s exports to India by, inter alia, addressing the concerns related to additional duties and charges, quantitative restrictions and rules of origin.

Both sides agreed to expedite the finalisation of a memorandum of understanding between the Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology and the Bureau of Indian Standards.

On Nepal’s request for additional air routes, the Joint Commission directed the civil aviation authorities concerned to deal with the matter at the next meeting by the end of 2016.

Nepal requested India to take supportive measures to promote tourism industry by including Nepal in its concessional leave scheme and by granting multiple entry visas to India-bound third-country tourists to enable them to visit Nepal, said the statement.

The Fifth meeting of the Joint Commission will take place in Nepal at a mutually convenient date.

Formed in 1987, the Joint Commission is a bilateral mechanism at the Foreign Ministers level with a mandate to review the entire spectrum of bilateral relations. The last meeting of the commission was held in Kathmandu in 2014.