Indian investments continue to experience rough weather in Nepal with fresh opposition to a project involving the Tribhuwan International Airport.
Last October Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services, one of India’s top infrastructure development companies, had shown interest to manage and upgrade Nepal’s only international airport.
The Nepal Investment Board had asked the company to submit its proposal. But several opposition parties have already started opposing the move citing national interest and security.
“We strongly condemn the caretaker government’s bid to handover administration of the only international airport in the country to a foreign company in a non-transparent manner,” stated Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) in a press statement.
The statement asked the government to reconsider the decision as Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal is involved in upgrading the airport with loans and grants from Asian Development Bank.
Others including Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist, which formed last month after splitting from the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), are also opposed to the move.
Officials of IL&FS expressed interest in the project during Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s India visit last year, but opposition started after media reports suggested this week that a MoU has already been signed.
The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority has asked the government for an explanation and a writ has also been filed in the Supreme Court opposing the ‘deal’.
India has remained concerned with lax security at TIA since the 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines IC 814 and over the years has offered financial and logistical help to improve its management.
The Indian company which had earlier entered into a deal with Nepal Electricity Authority to develop a 145 km transmission line in the Indo-Nepal border had faced problems with that project too.
India and Nepal signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement during Bhattarai’s India trip to boost investments, but opposition to Indian investments in Nepal is not new.
In 2010, the Nepal government scrapped a deal with an Indian government firm for printing of machine readable passports following political pressure. The project was later bagged by a French company.
Other Indian investments especially in the hydropower sector continue to face opposition. In May last year, three buildings of GMR Group were burnt down at the 900 MW Upper Karnali project site by Maoist protestors.
The hostility, mostly citing reasons of Nepal’s sovereignty and security, continues despite Indian firms accounting for over 44% of total foreign investments in country.