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PTA with India likely during Modi visit: FM

KATHMANDU, Aug 1:Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said Nepal and India are likely to ink Power Trade Agreement (PTA) during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s visit.

Speaking at a press conference organized at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Friday to formally announce the two-day official visit of Modi to Nepal starting Sunday, Minister Pandey said fresh negotiations are under way between the two sides after the initial draft proposed by India courted controversy in Nepal. “The draft of Power Trade Agreement proposed by Nepal will be endorsed by a cabinet meeting tomorrow [Saturday] and will be formally presented to India. The PTA is likely to be signed during the Indian prime minister´s visit,” he said. 

A cross-party taskforce comprising Nepali Congress (NC) leader Ram Sharan Mahat, CPN-UML leader Bhim Rawal and UCPN (Maoist) leader Narayankaji Shrestha on Thursday finalized the draft PTA. The draft PTA was forwarded to the Indian side for informal negotiations on Friday itself.
Revising some of the controversial provisions of the PTA proposed earlier by the Indian side, the Task Force has included a provision to revise prices of electricity as per the existing market price on a regular basis, and removed the provision that seeks Indian monopoly over Nepal´s hydro power development. 

The Task Force members have also proposed not to link power generation issue with the PTA in line with the understanding reached among the three big parties during a meeting called by the prime minister Tuesday. 

Minister Pandey said the agreements reached during the Joint Commission (JC) held on July 26 will be endorsed at prime ministerial level. The JC meeting had ended with a 26-pt Joint Statement following discussion on over 50 agenda items.

Sources said preparations are under way to ink Project Development Agreement (PDA) for Upper Karnali with Indian firm GMR, which earlier won the 900 MW project through competitive bidding. Investment Board Nepal (IBN) and GMR officials have been negotiating to finalize the PDA since last one year.

A board meeting of the IBN scheduled for Saturday morning is likely to endorse the PDA reached between the IBN and GMR. The cabinet meeting will then endorse the PDA for Upper Karnali, coinciding with the visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi.

The Upper Karnali Hydropower Project is expected to cost Rs 140 billion to complete. While Nepal will get 12 percent of the electricity generated by the project for free, GMR has also agreed to provide 27 percent free equity to Nepal till the project is handed over to Nepal after 25 years. 

No Indian ministers to accompany Modi

None of the Indian cabinet ministers will accompany Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his two-day official visit to Nepal.

According to Minister Pandey, Modi will be accompanied by Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, secretaries from various concerned ministries and joint secretary (North) at the Ministry of External Affairs, Abhay Thakur. “Though the Indian delegation will have about 75 members, there will be only about 27 members in the official delegation,” said Minister Pandey.

During her visit to Nepal earlier this week, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed Nepal that no ministers will be accompanying Modi in his visit to Kathmandu. 

Minister Pandey said Indian side has proposed a nine-member team in the delegation-level talks. “We have also proposed to keep the number of those taking part in the delegation level talks at the same number.” Any agreements reached during the meetings will be signed by secretaries of the respective countries. Breaking the existing protocol, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will receive Modi upon his arrival at the VVIP Lounge at the Tribhuvan International Airport. 

KOSH RAJ KOIRALA

Source: Republica

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