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No word from India on meeting with Nepal over power trade

Kathmandu

10-December-2019

A planned tripartite meeting between Nepal, India and Bangladesh to fix the terms for power trade is in limbo with no word for the past two months from the Indian External Affairs Ministry which had proposed to host it.

Nepal is in line to produce surplus electricity which would be exported to energy-starved Bangladesh using Indian transmission lines, so what officials are essentially planning is a three-way tango, the Kathmandu Post reported.

Nepali officials said they were waiting for correspondence from India, and that it was not certain when the meeting would take place.

There are concerns that the ongoing boundary row between Nepal and India might be the reason behind India's silence over the meeting.

"We have not yet received any correspondence from our Indian counterparts about the proposed meeting," said Prabin Raj Aryal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Nepal.

"Even if there have been some internal developments, we are less aware of it and cannot say anything at this moment," he said.

According to Aryal, the meeting will be held sooner or later as it has been proposed by a firm mechanism between Nepal and India on cooperation in the power sector.

The proposed tripartite meeting, officials say, is expected to fix transmission modalities and commercial terms for the use of the Indian grid, paving the way for direct power trade between Nepal and Bangladesh through India.

However, there are also differences over the modality of power trade through India which are yet to be resolved.

Talk of tripartite discussions had surfaced four months ago after Nepal and Bangladesh decided to explore possibilities of using Indian transmission lines passing through the Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken's Neck, following amendments to cross-border energy trading regulations by India.

Independent power producers, who visited Dhaka in May to lobby for including their market interests and concerns in the bilateral meetings between Bangladesh and Nepal, said that the meeting of the tripartite mechanism should not be delayed as it is the only way the country can secure a market for surplus electricity expected to be produced in Nepal.

As per the Nepal Electricity Authority's estimates, electricity generation in the country will surpass domestic power demand by around 1,000 megawatts within a year, and by 8,000 megawatts within the fiscal year 2025-26.

Energy-hungry Bangladesh is one of the fastest-growing economies and is seen as a lucrative market for the power produced in Nepal. The countries have already entered into agreements to trade 9,000 megawatts of electricity over the course of a decade.

Amid the hold-up of the tripartite meeting, Nepal and Bangladesh are gearing up to hold a third secretary-level meeting on Cooperation in the Field of Power Sector.

A new map released by India last month delineating its geographical area has led to protests in Nepal with Kathmandu laying claim to a 35 sq km area on the border, which India says it is its territory.

The area, known as Kalapani, was shown in the new maps released on the occasion of bifurcation of J&K into two UTs last month.

Kalapani, located just 18 km from Lipulekh pass, is a transit route for the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.

Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli on November 17 said the Kalapani area belonged to Nepal and India should "immediately withdraw its Army from there".

India has said that the new map "accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India" and that it has not revised the boundary with Nepal.IANS