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Nepal seeks fuel grant from Saudi Arabia

Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has written to Saudi Arabia seeking 10,000kl of petrol and a similar quantity of diesel on grant assistance

Picture for illustrative purpose only.
Picture for illustrative purpose only.

The government of Nepal has approached Saudi Arabia for grant assistance of 20,000 kilolitres of gasoline, citing severe shortage of fuel in the country.

The supply lines from India, on which the country is totally reliant for gasoline import, have been disrupted since the last three months or so, due to ongoing tensions between the two nations.

Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has written to Saudi Arabia seeking 10,000kl petrol and a similar quantity of diesel on grant assistance to ease the lives of people who have been affected.

“However, we have to wait for a few days to get the Saudi government’s response,” the ministry’s spokesperson Tara Prasad Pokharel said.

At present, the Nepalese government is providing limited amount of fuel only to bigger public vehicles, and vehicles of essential services as import from India has dropped by over 80% in the last two months.

In a bid to explore other alternatives, the state-owned Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) had also signed a framework agreement with the China National United Oil Corporation (PetroChina) in Beijing in October to import fuel.

It is to be noted that Chinese government has already provided 1,300kl of petrol to Nepal as grant assistance to the NOC.

However, as both the oil giants have yet to finalise technical aspects of importing fuel from China, inking the business-to-business (B2B) deal has been stalled. Nepal can begin importing fuel from China only after both companies seal a deal.

Nepal’s move to seek fuel grants from Saudi Arabia, however, has been criticised by a former government secretary, who says Nepal should have sought alternative channels to purchase fuel rather than seek petroleum products for free.

“The government needs to give priority to signing the B2B deal with China, as well as explore other alternatives to import fuel at a commercial scale, rather than keep asking for fuel on grant,” said Purusottam Ojha, former commerce secretary.

“Seeking grant from friendly nations can provide immediate relief, but it’s high time the government seriously sought alternatives to manage this crisis,” Ojha added.

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