Deuba asks Modi to open up new air routes for Nepal

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Kathmandu, Nov. 3 — Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi held talks on the sidelines of the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on Tuesday.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Deuba sought India’s support and cooperation to open up three new air routes over India, Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Poudyal told the Post over the phone from Glasgow.Nepal's newly appointed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba addresses the parliament asking for a vote of confidence in Kathmandu on July 18, 2021. (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP) (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP via Getty Images)Nepal’s newly appointed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba addresses the parliament asking for a vote of confidence in Kathmandu on July 18, 2021. (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA / AFP) (Photo by PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP via Getty Images)

“The Indian prime minister has taken our request positively,” said Poudyal.

Nepal had asked India to formally open up new air routes over India from Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kathmandu in 2014.

The new air routes would facilitate international flights to proposed international airports in Bhairahawa, Pokhara and Nijgadh, according to officials.

On June 17, 2018 India had provided new air entry routes to Nepal over Biratnagar and Janakpur. With the permission, international flights coming to Nepal can use the eastern air entry routes over Biratnagar and Janakpur. Before that, Nepal-bound international flights would enter Nepali airspace from Simara only.

Deuba also requested India’s support for early resumption of export of chemical fertilisers to Nepal as both sides are waiting to sign a formal deal. In June, Nepali and Indian officials had discussed signing a five-year deal to supply chemical fertilisers to Nepal.

As per the proposed deal, Nepal can buy up to 200,000 tonnes of chemical fertilisers, mostly urea, per year from the southern neighbour without issuing a global tender. The amount will be enough to meet Nepal’s 30 percent annual fertiliser requirement. The procurement would be made government-to-government by the state-owned Agriculture Inputs Company. During a meeting in June in Delhi, India had given approval for an immediate supply of 30,000 tonnes of urea and 20,000 tonnes of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) to Nepal to meet the seasonal demands, but there has been no further progress on the front since then.

This is the first meeting between Deuba and Modi in four years.

Multiple sources told the Post that the two discussed exchange of high-level visits between two sides, cooperation in the Covid vaccine and resolving the outstanding issues between Nepal and India through different channels, among other things.

“The two prime ministers had a fruitful meeting. We discussed strengthening our multi-faceted relations including Covid vaccine supply to Nepal, exchange of high-level visits and resolving outstanding issues,” said Poudyal.

With regard to Covid vaccine, Modi has promised to supply Covid vaccine as per Nepal’s request and demand, according to officials.

No specific discussion was held about high-level visits from both sides but there are always prospects of such visits in the future from both sides, another Nepali official said.

“In their first engagement since PM Deuba assumed office, the two leaders discussed ways to further strengthen our close bilateral ties,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, tweeted. “Also discussed climate, Covid-19 and resolved to work together towards post pandemic recovery.”

Deuba also thanked Modi for India’s continued support for Nepal’s development endeavours, post-earthquake recovery and expected similar kind of support and cooperation in the future too, said Poudyal.

“…Theirs was a fruitful meeting, in which different issues including a collective effort against COVID-19 and working together to overcome climate change were discussed,” a tweet by India’s Prime Minister Office has mentioned after the meeting between Deuba and Modi.

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