India-Nepal launch construction of 3rd integrated check post to boost trade
India and Nepal on Thursday launched the construction of a Rs 147.12-crore integrated check post (ICP) at Nepalgunj to streamline and boost cross-border trade, weeks ahead of a visit to Kathmandu by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla to take forward bilateral ties.
Commerce minister Piyush Goyal and Nepal’s urban development minister Krishna Gopal Shrestha witnessed the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the ICP, which will smoothen cross-border movement of cargo trucks by bringing customs and immigration facilities under one roof.
This will be the third ICP on the India-Nepal border and similar facilities at Birgunj and Biratnagar were operationalised in April 2018 and January 2020. India has also built ICPs on the borders with neighbours such as Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Goyal announced the Indian government will take up the construction of a fourth ICP at Bhairahawa in Nepal with Indian funding. The modalities for this project and the implementing agency are under consideration, he said.
The ICP at Nepalgunj will have export and import cargo handling facilities such as warehousing, refrigerated cargo facilities, medical, plant and animal quarantine areas, and amenities for drivers and passengers. It will also have extensive security systems, including CCTV cameras, round the clock power backup, and waste water treatment facilities.
“The facility is envisaged to promote systematic approach to cargo handling and, therefore, will result in saving of time and inconvenience to visitors and reduce overall transaction costs for cross-border trade and commerce,” the Indian embassy in Kathmandu said in a statement.
The portion of the ICP on the Nepalese side will be built on 61.5 hectares by a Pune-based company under the supervision of state-run RITES International Ltd. The construction period is two years.
A portion on the Indian side is being built at Rupaidiha by Lands Ports Authority of India and the work started in May. More than 10% of the construction has been completed.
During the construction period, the Nepalgunj project is expected to create local employment and boost the economy through supply of raw materials and items from Nepal’s markets.
The creation of advanced cross-border logistics and infrastructure facilities over the past three years has boosted connectivity and mutually beneficial trade and people-to-people ties, the Indian embassy said.
Shringla is expected to visit Nepal during November 26-27, close on the heels of a two-day trip to Kathmandu last week by the Indian Army chief, Gen MM Naravane, to take forward ties that were rocked by a border row earlier this year.
Both countries had been working behind the scenes to put the bilateral relationship back on an even keel against the backdrop of the India-China border standoff in the Ladakh sector.
India-Nepal ties were hit in May after defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a key border road to Lipulekh region, which is claimed by Nepal. Kathmandu responded by issuing a new map that showed Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura, all controlled by India, as part of Nepalese territory. This exacerbated the border row.
This will be Shringla’s fifth foreign visit in the aftermath of pandemic-related travel restrictions. He visited the Maldives this week, and has also travelled to Bangladesh and Myanmar in the neighbourhood.