(160303) -- KATHMANDU, March 3, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Nepali Congress senior leader and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba greets supporters at the 13th general convention in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, March 3, 2016. The 13th general convention of Nepali Congress, Nepal's largest party in the parliament, kicked off here on Thursday amid a special function. (Xinhua/Sunil Sharma)

By Anil Giri

Kathmandu: Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba on Tuesday said the construction of the Kathmandu-Terai Fast-Track Road Project should be handed over to India.

The 76-km four-lane road project aims to link Nep’l’s capital with the southern Terai region and other areas of the Himalayan nation bordering India, halving the travel time to four hours. The total cost is estimated at $1 billion.

The Nepal government recently decided to take up the project mobilising resources on its own — rejecting New Delhi’s offer at a time when India’s Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) and its consortium had even prepared a detailed project report (DPR).

Deuba, a three-time prime minister of Nepal, told a parliamentary meeting that it was not a bad idea to construct the expressway from the country’s own resources but since a commitment had been made to India for the project, it will send a negative message to the international community.

Deuba said it was not possible for Nepal to undertake the project from its own resources. “It is not possible,” he remarked.

A global tender was issued and three Indian firms showed interest in the proposed first expressway in Nepal.

After huge protest, the then Sushil Koirala-led government agreed to conduct a feasibility study first after which the IL&FS won the bid.

The task of preparing the DPR was given to IL&FS last year when Bimalendra Nidhi, an aide to Deuba, was minister for infrastructure and transport management.

“If we terminate the contract unilaterally, it will create trouble,” Deuba said at the meeting, pointing out that Nepal will have to pay a huge compensation in case the tender was cancelled.

“In such a situation, it will affect foreign investment in Nepal.”

Nepal’s Supreme Court has ordered the government not to award the tender to any firm(s) until its verdict.

The K.P. Oli-led government has decided that another project — the second international airport at Nijgadh in Bara district — in which too India showed interest, will be built by Nepal on its own.

The construction of the Nijgadh airport and linking Kathmandu to the airport through the expressway are two key Indian infrastructure pushes in Nepal. Nijgadh is close to the Nepal-India border.

Last June, during the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had evinced India’s interest in taking up the construction of the Nijgadh airport as well as the Kathmandu-Nijgadh Fast-Track Road.