Meeting to reobserve rail agreement to begin today in New DelhiIt is being said that in the Delhi meeting, discussions on major issues of rail transit will be carried out
A meeting of Indian and Nepali officials to reobserve a decade-and-a-half-old Rail Service Agreement (RAS) is going to be held from Thursday in New Delhi. It has been said that around a dozen issues will be discussed in the two-day meeting.
Nepali traders have long been complaining of difficulties in trading with third countries in the absence of timely evaluation and revision of the RAS. Because of the absence of an updated RAS, many contracts and agreements that have been signed between officials of the two countries have failed to be effectively implemented, say officials.
Nepal and India signed the RAS in 2004. Though an extensive evaluation of the agreement had been demanded time and again, the only two meetings—held in 2009 and 2012—that have happened since the signing of the agreement could not give meaningful conclusions. With the increase in trade and transit with other countries, Nepal has been demanding there be an extension of railway services in all the trading points across the country. The RAS of 2004 included only the railway transit facility from Kolkata to Birgunj.
“There has been a drastic change in the nature and quantity of trade in the 15 years of agreement, so a timely evaluation of the agreement is must,” says a high level Nepal official.
It is being said that in the Delhi meeting, discussions on major issues of rail transit will be carried out, which include the extension of the service of containerised and bulk cargo, ways of utilising the extension of the Janakpur-Jaynagar railway for transit and the like.
Besides this, railway links (metre and broad gauge) will also be discussed in the meeting. Nepal will also be demanding the railway link connected in the border be modern and well-managed.
Nepal has also been requesting India to extend the bulk cargo facility to other important transit points between Nepal and India. Last year, there were talks about the signing of the Letter of Exchange regarding bulk cargo between Nepal and India during the BIMSTEC summit in Nepal, but it did not take place in the last minute.
In the absence of bulk cargo facilities in other transit points, Nepal is compelled to bring all the commodities imported from third countries by transporting them via Kolkata to Visakhapatnam Port through Birgunj. Traders had been demanding to extend this facility to other transit points because the present situation is increasing the cost of raw materials and decline in the competitive ability of Nepali products. They had been demanding to extend bulk cargo facility to other industrial corridors as well. Meanwhile, India has been saying that there is a lack of railway infrastructure required to extend the bulk cargo facility in other transit points.
There is also the possibility of a discussion on the implementation of an Electronic Cargo Tracking System, which is currently in a testing phase. There may also be talks on extending this system to other transit points. Nawaraj Dhakal, Joint Secretary of the ministry of Industries, Commerce and Supplies, is leading the Nepali side.