KATHMANDU, July 5: India has turned down Nepal's request to allow Nepali gas bullets to transport cooking gas from India.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a meeting with her Nepali counterpart Krishna Bahadur Mahara on Monday evening said that Indian transporters would transport the cooking gas up to Nepali depots. Minister Swaraj's response came after Mahara asked the Indian side to facilitate Nepali gas bullets that have been left stranded for weeks in the Indian territory after Indian authorities denied necessary permits to carry cooking gas.
Officials participating in the meeting between the two ministers on Monday evening said India is not positive about allowing the Nepali bullets to enter India to bring back cooking gas. As Nepal does not have a gas depot as such, India's stand has left Nepali entrepreneurs, who have already purchased bullets, worried about their investment.
The then government led by K P Sharma Oli had encouraged Nepali entrepreneurs to buy gas bullets by waiving 66 percent customs tax in order to make Nepal self-reliant on gas import. This came close on the heels of Indian transporters denying transport of cooking gas and fuel to Nepal for months, citing protests on the Nepalese side of the border during the unofficial Indian economic embargo in 2015.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mahara also raised the issue of expediting implementation of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, facilitating exchange of banned Indian currency that Nepalis are still holding and avoiding effects of India's General Service Tax (GST) on goods imported to Nepal from third countries via India.
Officials said India is positive about expediting implementation of the Pancheshwar Project and offered to do what is possible on their part to avoid effects of GST on goods imported to Nepal from third countries via India. Nepal had also sought duty free provision for Nepali exports.
Officials said the Indian side did not offer any concrete way out to resolve the problem of banned Indian currency that many Nepalis are still holding. Although India initially expressed readiness to exchange such currencies held by Nepali nationals, it has done nothing yet, leaving a large number of Nepali businessperson and ordinary people, whose relatives work in India, in trouble.
DPM Mahara returns home
DPM Mahara returned home on Tuesday after concluding his three-day official visit to India.
During his stay in India, Minister Mahara held meetings with New Delhi-based non-resident ambassadors to Nepal to solicit vote for Nepal's candidacy as the member of United Nations Human Rights Council and held meetings with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj to raise issues of Nepal's concerns with India.
Talking to media persons upon his arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport, Minister Mahara said his visit to India had been helpful to further strengthen the multi-dimensional relations with India. "I have felt that the high-level exchange of visits between the two countries has helped to further strengthen our relationship," he said.
Mahara's India tour was also aimed at laying grounds for maiden visit of newly-elected Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to the southern neighbor. Mahara said that the two sides have agreed to fix the date of Prime Minister Deuba's visit to India in mutually convenient date in the near future.
According to Mahara's chief aide, Indian External Affairs Minister Swaraj is traveling to Nepal on August 10 to attend the 10th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting scheduled for August 10-11. As current chair of BIMSTEC, Nepal plans to host the summit of this sub-regional group later this year.