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Nepal taps Mumbai port to bolster trade, exports

Mumbai port

Nepal is building a dry port in Dodhara Chandani on its western border with India following successful talks between officials of the two nations in December. The Dodhara Chandani port will open up another trade route for Nepal and link it to Mumbai, which is one of the top 30 ports globally, and also the private Mundhra port in Gujarat.

The Kathmandu Post quoted Prakash Dahal, joint secretary at the Nepalese Ministry of Industry and Commerce, as saying: "The dry port will provide the shortest route to two key ports—Mundra Port, India's largest private port in Gujarat, and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai. Transporting goods to Nepal through these routes will result in a substantial saving.” The connectivity to Mumbai and Mundhra ports will facilitate Nepal's foreign trade and reduce costs.

It hopes to export agricultural products, minerals and manufactured goods to India and other countries. Nepal has been mainly dependent on Kolkata and to some extent Visakhapatnam for its external trade. A high-level delegation led by Lekh Raj Bhatta, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, along with senior officials visited the site on the India-Nepal border close to both Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. India too has started preparations for an Integrated Check Post on its side of the border near Banbasa area in Uttarakhand. India has already started building a road.

These developments are the direct result of the December 7 meeting of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Trade, Transit and Cooperation to Control Unauthorised Trade. The meeting also decided to expand the transport cargo from government-owned rail services, in place currently, to include private operators also. Nepali Railway will also be used for trade. The proposal had been in the wings for a long time.

The World Bank had done a study for a dry port at Dodhara Chandani almost a decade back. The Nepal government now plans to complete its own feasibility study in another two years. Nepal has been looking at China for connectivity with the outside world as well. In 2016, Nepal had signed the Transit and Transport Agreement with China for the use of four sea ports – Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang, and Zhanjiang, and three dry ports – Lanzhou, Lhasa, and Xigatse.

This also allows Nepal to carry out exports through six dedicated transit points between Nepal and China. However, the distance between the closest ports, Birgunj and Tianjin, is nearly 3,300 kms, which will prove to be a deterrent to Nepali traders. However, with a series of high-profile visits by Indian officials to Kathmandu in the last couple of months, the glow in India-Nepal relations is back.

The two countries plan to create more trade and transit routes besides opening up railway lines. The Dodhara Chandani dry port link to Mumbai and Mundhra will benefit both countries.