Government preparing for power trade talks with India

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    nepal-flag-pylonThe Ministry of Energy (MoE) has started making preparations to hold power trade talks with India, which could lead to the signing of a deal that would allow the two neighbouring countries to officially purchase and sell electricity.

    The ministry started making preparations for the meeting upon receiving an invitation from the Indian government. “The Indian Ministry of Power has officially sent us an invitation to begin negotiations on the power trade deal. We are currently doing our homework. Once this is complete, we will propose a date for the meeting,” MoE Joint Secretary Keshab Dhoj Adhikari said. 

    Earlier, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Nepal, the two countries, in a joint statement, had stated that the Power Trade Agreement would be signed within 45 days. “Since premiers of both countries have given us a deadline, we are working on meeting it,” Adhikari said. 

    However, this is not the first time that the MoE has received invitation from India for power trade talks.

    Earlier this year, the Indian side had proposed to hold a meeting on July 21-22, in New Delhi, to pave the way for signing of a power trade deal.

    In this regard, a delegation led by Energy Secretary Rajendra Kishore Kshatri was supposed to leave for the Indian capital on July 20. But citing absence of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in the country, the Cabinet, which was then headed by Deputy Premier Bam Dev Gautam, did not give clearance for the visit. The Nepali delegation then had to cancel the trip in the last hour.

    The Cabinet at that time did not give permission to the Nepali delegation, as the draft of the power trade agreement forwarded by India had raised some eyebrows here, with many politicians claiming signing of the pact would give sole authority to Indian government or companies to build hydroelectric projects in Nepal.

    Following that controversy, a three-party panel comprising Finance Minister and leader of Nepali Congress Ram Sharan Mahat, CPN-UML’s Bhim Rawal and Unified CPN-Maoist’s Narayan Kaji Shrestha was given the responsibility of finalising the draft of the power trade agreement. 

    The draft, prepared with the support of MoE officials, was then forwarded to India on August 1.

    In the draft of the power trade agreement prepared by the panel, Nepal had proposed to focus solely on power trading and building cross-border transmission lines to import and export power, without touching upon the issue of power generation.

    The panel had also changed the name of the agreement from ‘Agreement between India and Nepal on Cooperation in Power Sector’ — as proposed by India — to ‘Nepal-India Electric Power Trade and Cross Border Transmission Interconnection’.

    The draft agreement also included a provision on establishing sub-regional grid connectivity, which would allow Nepal to export power to countries other than India, like Bangladesh.

    “We are yet to hear the views of the Indian side on the draft of the power trade deal that we forwarded. Instead, we have received an invitation to visit India,” Adhikari said. “Hopefully, all the contentious issues will be discussed during the meeting.”

    Source : The Himalayan Times