PM's Visit And Nepal-China Ties

 

Narayan Upadhyay 

China is always an important neighbour and development partner of Nepal. The week-long visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to China has all the more highlighted this indelible fact. Even though no official agreement was signed at highest level between the two old neighbours, the Premier's visit can be termed as a goodwill one in which the visiting delegates from Nepal and their Chinese counterparts had held discussions on the multi-dimensional bilateral issues which has set the tone for consolidating the friendly ties that has existed between the two nations for more than half a century.

 

Though the visit drew some criticisms as there was no agenda for the Nepali side to sign any official agreement with the northern neighbour, the Chinese side has conveyed its willingness to be an important partner in Nepal's development activities. The visit, on the other hand has prepared groundwork for reaching agreements on various matters with the Chinese side.

 Significant meeting

Monday's meeting between Prime Minister Dahal and Chinese President Xi Jinping was a significant one. During the meeting, President Xi exhibited his curiosity regarding the construction of infrastructure such as the railway lines, roads, cross border transmission lines and economic zones in Nepal. The talks between the two dignitaries centered on China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, Nepal's likely involvement in the initiative, and the reopening of the Tatopani border which is a major trade point between the two nations that has remained closed after the 2015 earthquake. The Chinese president also raised concerns about political stability in Nepal. The Chinese side also took note of the upcoming local polls slated for May 14, for which China has pledged a financial assistance worth 136million rupees.

 

The Prime Minister has expressed Nepal's desire to be part of OBOR initiative, a Chinese project of building modern-day Silk Route in which the Chinese government will be spending billions in constructing infrastructure such as roads, railway lines, ports, power grids with a view to expedite trade and business and boost connectivity among different nations of the region and beyond. Nepal will actively take part in the OBOR Summit to be held in May in Beijing, according to sources close to the Prime Minister.

 

Apart from holding a special meeting with President Xi, PM Dahal also attended the Boao Forum for Annual Asian Conference in Hainan where he delivered a key address urging the leaders attending the Forum to work towards inclusive globalisation where the least developed nations like Nepal should be included for attaining economic prosperity. In his meeting with the Chinese business community, the PM urged the Chinese business fraternity to invest in various sectors of Nepal. The government would introduce several suitable policies and programmes to attract prospective Chinese investors.

 

Also, the visiting Nepali premier made commitment that the government would uphold Nepal's "One China Policy." The Chinese side has always been concerned that the elements inimical to the Chinese interests would be using the Nepali soil for perpetrating anti-Chinese activities and undermining peace and stability in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). However, the Prime Minister expressed his commitment that Nepal would not allow anyone to perpetrate anti-China activities.

 

The PM's China sojourn is not without criticism though. Many at home stated that PM Dahal's visit has fallen short of gaining something concrete for Nepal. Before his visit, it was clear that he would not be inking any agreement with the Chinese side. It appeared that his visit was scheduled in haste and without required preparation making victims the much-awaited agreements with the Chinese side on the important matters such as constructing railway lines, supply of fuel to Nepal from China and using Chinese ports to import Nepali goods among others.

The former government led by KP Oli had reached various understandings with the Chinese side on constructing railway tracks in Nepal, construction of economic zones and supply of Chinese petroleum products to Nepal among many other beneficial agreements, for which the Chinese side had shown their readiness to cooperate. However, PM Dahal and Chinese side could not sign any deal on these matters.

 

To many, the Prime Minister had to visit China to give continuity to the old tradition: if a Nepali premier has visited India then he must reach out to the Chinese side or vice versa. The existing geo-politics demands that our heads of government must visit both countries to keep our relationship with two bigger, powerful neighbours in balance.

In the meantime, owing to a past agreement, PM Dahal will have to quit and hand over his post to the Nepali Congress leader. The "hasty" visit to China would be his last chance to maintain the balance between the two big neighbours and his cordial relations with the Chinese leadership and establishment. Some analysts even say that his government could not sign deals with China because of the pressures the government had to face from different quarters, which is an outcome of the geo-politics. Former PM KP Oli was the one who had reached various understandings with the Chinese side when his government's ties with India were at the lowest ebb. The Dahal-headed government is not "supposed" to seal the deal on the matters which the Oli government had brought forth after his relation with India had soured.

 Beneficial visit

For all the criticism, the visit was beneficial for Nepal. The Chinese side expressed happiness over the continuation of healthy and friendly bilateral ties between the two nations and conveyed their willingness to extend support to Nepal in constructing infrastructure and power projects. The visit is expected to draw more investments from China, the largest source of Foreign Direct Investment for Nepal and the second largest trade partner of the country.  On the other hand, the Nepalese side's commitment to uphold One China Policy, to discourage anti-China activities in Nepal and expression of willingness to be a part of OBOR initiative has cheered the northern neighbour. The visit of Dahal would certainly be termed further successful if Chinese President Xi, who was invited by PM Dahal to visit Nepal during his meeting with him, embarks on his Nepal visit in near future. It is because every visit of the Chinese presidents always brings focus and loads of cheers to this Himalayan nation.

 

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