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India wants Nepal not to allow foreigners to use trans-border rail link, cites security

Official sources say since India and Nepal have visa-free travel, other countries' nationals would make travel cumbersome due to immigration, customs and visa-checking procedures.

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New Delhi: India has told Nepal that nationals of other countries will not be allowed to use the new 35-km rail link between Jaynagar in Bihar and Kurtha in Nepal, due to security reasons, ThePrint has learnt. 

The India-funded project, which involved conversion of the 34.9-km narrow gauge section into broad gauge, was handed over to Nepal in October this year.

The railway was built to bring about “easier travel” and make it operate more “like a bus” between India and Nepal through this border crossing, which is part of the of 68.72 km Jaynagar-Bijalpura-Bardibas rail link that is being built under a grant assistance to Nepal by India. 

It is not meant for foreigners to travel on, official sources told ThePrint. According to the sources, it was always part of the original plan that the railroad will not be used by nationals of other countries, as that would make the travel cumbersome due to immigration, customs and visa-checking procedures. 

Citizens of India and Nepal don’t need these procedures, as both countries enjoy visa-free travel and share a porous border. But in case of nationals of other countries, the train will have to make a longer stop while the paperwork of all passengers will undergo a thorough checking procedure. 

Sources added that the journey will become longer and seamless travel will not happen. Thus, it has been decided that foreigners will not be allowed to use this border crossing and they will use designated crossings only. 

Currently, due to Covid-related travel restrictions, those land border crossing points continue to remain closed. 

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‘Important for tourists, pilgrims’

There are a total of eight stations and halts on the Jaynagar-Kurtha section, which includes the culturally and historically important city of Janakpur. Hence, both sides are expecting tourists and as well as pilgrims to use this railroad, as Janakpur is also believed to be the birthplace of Sita, and has many temples. 

Once operationalised, this would be the first broad gauge cross-border rail link between India and Nepal, and would further boost trade and commerce activities, as well as people-to-people linkages between the two countries, according to a press release issued by the Indian Embassy in Nepal.

The release also said, “cross-border rail linkages are an important facet of India-Nepal development cooperation”. 

Last week, Nepal reportedly said it is because of these security concerns of India that it took so long for both sides to finalise an agreement on rail connectivity. 

“Initially, the Indian side had proposed that third country nationals should be completely barred from using the railway service … But we rejected the proposal. Then both sides agreed that even third country nationals can travel on the railway within Nepal, but they won’t be allowed to cross over to India,” Deepak Kumar Bhattarai, Director General at the Department of Railways in Nepal, was quoted as saying.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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