Making A Difference

"We Must Have Free Trade Now"

NEPAL'S Foreign Minister,Prakash Chandra Lohani,is widely acknowledged to be the key figure behind the negotiations for the new Tanakpur accord. But when asked in an exclusive interview to comment on the mad rush among political parties—including the

"We Must Have Free Trade Now"
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Tanakpur has defined Indo-Nepal ties in concrete terms. The bilateralcooperation from now onwards will be based on the principle of equality and mutualbenefit.

We must be good neighbours. And good neighbourliness in this presentday and age means treating each other on the principle of equality and mutual benefit.

The willingness on the part of both countries to recognise eachother’s national interests and commitment to work for the benefit of their peoples.

I’d prefer to put it this way: India has been more responsive to Nepal’saspirations.

I wouldn’t use the term "major irritants" to describe theoutstanding issues that we need to discuss to benefit both our peoples. Trade and transitfor one. We have been asking India for a freer movement of Nepalese commodities to India.We have asked them to remove the "50 per cent raw material and labour content"formula (India allows greater customs duty relief for imports from Nepal if the goods have50 per cent Nepali raw material or local labour content). If that is difficult, we haveasked them to define the negative list of commodities that cannot enter India onpreferential terms. Likewise, we will ensure freer movement of Indian commodities insideNepal. This is in line with the free trade concept we are trying to promote in the region.

We have agreed on a few things officially. But the trade issue will betaken up in detail during Prime Minister Deuba’s New Delhi visit. India has inprinciple already agreed to our proposal to provide freer access to our goods in theIndian market.

We have asked for a transit facility from Kakarvitta (in eastern Nepal)to Phulbari in Bangladesh. The Indian response has been generally encouraging. They havesaid that they are seriously considering providing an alternative route in Badh-ikepur.That’s a very positive statement.

We will raise the Bhutan issue in New Delhi during the forthcomingvisit. Since the refugee problem involves not just Bhutan and Nepal but also India, wehave asked for their presence too. It could either be official or unofficial.

Well, they (India) have put their position and we have put ours. Andthat’s where we stand. We must continue to put forward our point of view. We havetold India that the issue is becoming increasingly tripartite. So, let’s wait andsee.

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