India will work on an inland waterway in Nepal that will boost its trade in the international market. China’s growing influence in Nepal has inspired Indian leadership to offer sea access to Nepal.
The Indian government has commenced work on a 300-kilometre-long inland waterway that will give direct sea access to Nepal. Nepal demanded sea access from India as well as China to strengthen its international trade.
Nepal’s transit trade constituting 98 per cent mainly runs through the ports of Kolkata and Visakhapatnam in India, but the present arrangement is prone to delays and bottlenecks.
Nonetheless, work on the Gandak River joining Ganga with Triveni Ghat in Nepal is likely to be completed by 2023, giving Nepal much-needed direct access to the sea. The Indian government will also establish a shipping terminal on Triveni through which Nepal can trade via the Bay of Bengal.
During a bilateral trade treaty review meeting held last week in Pokhara, Nepal urged India to provide them access to two other seaports — the Mundra Port on the western coast and the Dhamra Port on the eastern coast. Nepal will use these ports as alternatives to Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam. India has reacted positively to these requests.
India is Nepal’s largest trading partner. Nepal sells approximately 57 per cent of its total exports to India. Though, since 2015, after India blocked the supply of essential items, such as petrol, diesel and food grain to the Himalayan nation amid a political deadlock, Nepal developed close ties with China.
China has opened several trade passages for Nepal which has affected India. In 2018, China granted Nepal access to its ports of Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang, and Zhanjiang, opening alternate maritime routes for the landlocked nation.
During Nepal’s PM visit to China, the two sides signed eight deals worth 2.4 billion dollars under the Belt and Road Initiative that directs connectivity, infrastructure, and energy projects, including a 628km cross-Himalayan railway connecting China to Kathmandu.
Nepali media quoted PM, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli saying, “Even though there are some rumours, let us be clear that we are not going to fall into the debt trap. Instead, the BRI is going to be beneficial for us. We are aware of our national priorities and interests. Nobody should be worried about it at all.”
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