Transit treaty with Nepal gets only three months extension

New Delhi, Jan 5 | Updated: Jan 6 2006, 05:30am hrs
The strain that has crept in Indo-Nepal relations following New Delhis refusal to wholeheartedly back the monarchy appears to have cast a shadow on the transit treaty between the two countries.

A mere three-month extension, on the ground that the interim would allow the two sides to complete the review process as mandated under one of its provisions, has been accorded to the treaty, that was supposed to be automatically renewed for the next seven years. The treaty was signed essentially as a mechanism to control border crime and smuggling. Thursday was the last day that the treaty would have been in force, unless extended.

In response to a question on the Treaty of Transit between the two countries, the official spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs said,

The joint secretary level talks between the ministries of commerce of India and Nepal were held in New Delhi on January 4-5, 2006 to review the modalities, routes, conditions of transit and customs arrangements, as contained in the Protocol and Memorandum to the Treaty of Transit between the two countries.

Both countries, which share an open border and 15 transit points, had in 1999 drawn up the India-Nepal transit treaty to facilitate administration and prevent cross-border crime and smuggling. The treaty stipulates that it would be automatically renewed every seven years after both sides have reviewed the modalities. It can also be terminated with either party giving six months notice.

At the two-day meeting, India had asked for a review of the transit points as well as routes for sensitive goods. Of the 15 transit points, there could be some that are under-utilised while some may be overused.

India has been concerned at recent reports that fertiliser, highly subsidised here, was being smuggled and sold at high prices with the connivance of three Nepalese ministers.