Even as Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba expressed concern over the growing trade deficit with India, the two sides on Thursday agreed to enhance bilateral trade by addressing infrastructural deficiencies and trade restricting measures.
“Noting the current level of bilateral trade, the two Prime Ministers underscored that there is a considerable potential to enhance the bilateral trade, which could be harnessed by addressing infrastructural deficiencies and trade restricting measures as well as by adopting trade facilitation measures for easier market access to agricultural and industrial products,” said a joint statement following delegation-level talks here between Deuba and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
“Both sides agreed to cooperate towards strengthening testing and certifying laboratories, establishing quarantine facilities and harmonising standards,” it stated.
Bilateral trade between India and Nepal stood at USD 4.8 billion in 2015-16.
While Nepal’s exports to India stood at USD 371 million in 2015-16, India’s exports to the Himalayan nation stood at USD 4.48 billion during the same period.
During the talks, both sides agreed on early conclusion of the letters of exchange for transit of bulk cargo to Nepal using multi-modal transport, movement of traffic in transit via Nepal and on amendment to Rail Services Agreement.
According to the statement, both sides agreed to take steps for early upgrade and operationalisation of the agreed trade points of Dhangadhi-Gauriphanta, Guleria-Murthia, Jatahi-Pipraun and Pashupatinagar-Sukhiapokhri, while both Modi and Deuba stressed on “the need for channelising more direct investments from India into Nepal”.
Deuba also shared information on the recent steps taken by his government to spur economic reforms with the aim of enhancing investor confidence in his country, it added.
India also reaffirmed its cooperation with Nepal in all areas, including economic and post-earthquake reconstruction, and Prime Minister Modi asserted that the two neighbours were interdependent on each other in the defence sector.
After delegation-level talks, the two sides also signed eight agreements, including four on post-earthquake reconstruction in the Himalayan nation.
“Cooperation in defence and security is of high priority for us,” Modi said while jointly addressing the media with visiting Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba following the talks in New Delhi.
“Our defence interests are interdependent and linked to each other,” he said.
He said that to keep the open border between the two countries secure and for the security of the people on both sides, cooperation between the defence agencies of the two countries was very important.
Modi’s comments came even as Indian and Chinese troops are in a standoff situation along the Sikkim sector of the international border but the issue did not come up during Thursday’s talks.
Stating that the India-Nepal bilateral relationship held immense potential, Modi said that he and Deuba held wide ranging and positive talks covering all areas.
“I am happy that with India’s aid, work on various development projects like postal roads, trans-border power transmission lines and integrated check posts is going on,” he said.