KATHMANDU, Aug 23: Nepal and India have agreed to expedite work on a detailed project report (DPR) for the Raxaul-Kathmandu cross-border railway and on the construction of three additional cross-border rail lines connecting with the Nepali border towns of Kakarbhitta, Bhairahawa and Nepalgunj.
The two countries reached the agreement during the fifth Joint Commission meeting held in Kathmandu on Wednesday, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali.
In his briefing on the outcome of the JC meeting, Gyawali said the meeting co-chaired by his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar agreed to bring railway services linking Jayanagar (India) and Kurtha (Nepal) and Jogbani (India) and Biratnagar (Nepal) into operation at the earliest. Construction of these railway lines is currently underway with Indian grant assistance.
Similarly, the meeting, according to Gyawali, agreed to expedite construction work on railway lines linking Jalpaigudi (India) and Kakarbhitta (Nepal), Nautanawa (India) and Bhairahawa (Nepal) and Rupaidiya (India) with Nepalgunj in the western part of the country.
“The meeting has agreed to expeditiously move forward the DPR of the Raxaul-Kathmandu Railway,” he told parliament. Officials at the Department of Railways said India already sent a preliminary engineering and traffic survey for the proposed 140-km railway project to the Nepal government earlier in June.
During the JC meeting, Nepal and India also agreed to review the trade and transit treaties and railway agreements.
In view of the ballooning trade deficit with India, the Nepal side requested the Indian side to consider providing enhanced access to the Indian market for Nepali exportable items. According to Minister Gyawali, Nepal called for duty-free and quota-free access for Nepali goods and removal of non-tariff barriers to these products.
The meeting has also directed officials of both countries to resolve the remaining issues of the Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project. The project has been in limbo since the 1990s due to some differences between the two countries.
On issues of outstanding border dispute related to Kalapani and Susta, the JC meeting has directed a foreign secretary-led mechanism to put forth a concrete proposal since there had not been any mapping of these disputed territories. The meeting has also agreed to give continuity to the removal of illegal structures in no-man’s land, the construction, renovation and maintenance of border pillars and other technical works.
According to Gyawali, Nepal has asked India for additional air entry routes in view of the new airports in Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh. India has yet to respond to the request.
Similarly, the JC meeting also dwelt on the flooding and inundation caused by structures built by the Indian side along the border. The meeting has agreed to implement the recommendations made by joint inspection teams last year.