Parties’ nod for PTA with India; seek Arun III ‘gift’

    • Form three-member panel to finalise contents of power trade agreement

    Energy_trade_treatyKATHMANDU, JUL 30 – A meeting of the three major political parties, agreeing to sign a separate power trade agreement with India during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, formed a three-member cross-party panel on Tuesday to finalise the contents of the PTA to be forwarded to the Indian side for approval. The new agreement will be named Agreement in Power Trade.

    The panel has Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat from the Nepali Congress, Bhim Rawal from the CPN-UML and Narayan Kaji Shrestha from the UCPN (Maoist) as members. It will finalise the text of the agreement with inputs from Energy Ministry officials and forward it to the Indian side at the earliest, said Maoist leader Shrestha.

    The new PTA will get inputs from the PTA proposal sent by Nepal to India in 2010 (Cross-border Inter-connection for Electric Power Trade) and the Power Cooperation Agreement forwarded by India recently. “Keeping national interests at the core and for mutual benefit, we have decided to sign a new power trade deal with India. The new proposal from our side will be focused on energy trade, not on power generation and development,” said Shrestha.

    Since the Indian side is willing to develop a hydroelectricity project as a gift to Nepal, leaders have agreed to seek the construction of the 900 MW Arun III during Modi’s visit. “The Indian state-owned Sutlej Jal Vidhuyt Nigam is developing the project. Hence, it would be easier for India to convert it into aid,” said the leader.

    But some leaders in the meeting enquired whether the Indian assistance for Arun III would be soft loan or grant. “If India offers soft loan, it would be difficult for Nepal to accept. The meeting decided to take up the matter diplomatically,” said the leader.

    When Prime Minister Sushil Koirala was in New Delhi for the Indian premier’s swearing-in, Modi had asked him to identify a mega hydropower project for assistance. In a meeting with Finance Minister Mahat, the Indian ambassador had made a similar offer.

    The meeting also decided to continue discussions on signing the project development agreement (PDA) for the 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydroelectricity Project. The Investment Board Nepal is in the final stage of PDA negotiations with India’s GMR for Upper Karnali.

    According to Shrestha, the meeting also decided to make a fresh request with India to remove its temporary camp from Biratnagar which was set up in 2008 after the Koshi flood. Additionally, the meeting decided to extend the agreement for the India-funded Small Grant Project by three years, proposing to bring it under the country’s budgetary system.

    “The meet has instructed the government to hold negotiations with India on a new area where the fund can be mobilised within government mechanism,” said Shrestha.

    The meeting also discussed other projects for which Indian cooperation could be sought. Parties have agreed to expedite the execution of Pancheshwor project, a part of the Mahakali Treaty, and some projects agreed to at the recently concluded third meeting of the Joint Commission. As per the agreed minutes, the Nepali side has requested Indian aid for blacktopping the eastern part of the Mid-Hill Highway (352 km), upgradation and widening of East-West Highway, Kathmandu -Tarai Fast Track, multi-lane bride over the Mahakali river in Mahendranagar and two motorable bridges in Baitadi and Darchula. There are calls within the NC for seeking assistance for developing the 76 km Buddhist Circuit covering Rupandehi, Nawalparasi and Kapilvastu districts. PM Koirala will continue consultations on Wednesday.

    Source : eKantipur