Nepal-China Ties On Track?


Madhavji Shrestha

Development of Nepal-China relations from March 2016 to March 2017 is noticeable compared to previous years. Former Prime Minister K.P. Oli had proceeded miles ahead during his visit to China in March 2016 in signing understandings and agreements with the government of China on close cooperation on trade and transit, investment, supply and exploration of oil and gas, electric transmission lines, and more notably the “One Belt One Road” (OBOR).

These bilateral understandings and agreements are glaringly popular because they were signed in the immediate aftermath of the unofficial Indian blockade. Now the thread of good cooperation was picked up following the recent visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to China. During his formal meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, Prime Minister Prachanda expressed commitment to moving ahead the implementation process of all those understandings and agreements reached last year.

President Xi Jinping, upon PM Prachanda’s request, also indicated to visit Nepal at a convenient time in the future. Positive developments in the bilateral cooperation seem optimistic in further pushing the bond of neighbourly connectivity in the right direction. A congenial atmosphere has loomed large in the horizon of bilateral friendship during the bilateral talks. This has largely eliminated the feelings of hibernation in the relationship brought by the ousting of Oli, together with the avoidance of President Xi’s visit to Nepal at the time of official trips to India and Bangladesh in October 2016. Such events then looked as an indication of indifferent attitude towards Nepal, though not amounting to diplomatic snub.

Apparently, the renewed contact now at the higher political level and deliberation related with the bilateral cooperation have created a situation of returning to the normal trajectory of neighbourly dealings, which seems essential for Nepal specially considering the need of the country for its socio-economic uplift and effective executing of all constitutional provisions, in particular lingering important provisions of the federal structure enshrined in the constitution. This is the single most challenge that the current political imbroglio has thrown before the top political guards who are saddled in the governmental. Political observers sense that once the change of political leadership guards occurs, what would be the fate of all those understandings and agreements signed off at a time when the impelling need is felt, and when the constraining condition itself is hovering around queasy situation due to the unwanted and unwarranted blockade that has left an indelible imprint of suffering and hardship among the masses of the Nepali populace.

Occurrence of the frequent changes of guards at the upper political level of the government has cost immensely high and immeasurably time wasting. This has tremendously impacted the democratic political processes as well, and its immediate repercussions are perceptibly felt in the approach and method of conducting foreign relations and policies vis-a-vis neighbours in particular and other countries in general.

Implementation of agreements and understandings is needed to save Nepal from further blockades. The prevailing situation and political maneuvering in Nepal are still impregnated with uncertainty and unpredictability. No one can say that there will be no more blockades. What if Nepal’s political simmering invites the most unwanted blockade? Shrewd political observers with inside knowledge of Nepali politics express doubt over the maturity of the political leadership in Nepal with connection and acquiescence with external political elements.

Broader knowledge and deeper analysis would help us understand how China has been laying foundations to establish regional and international system in recent decades. Their efforts have thrown perceptible challenges to the established international system whose ground works had been initiated by the west led by the United States. The founding of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the launching of Boao Forum for Asia, the functioning of BRICS development bank and now much-hyped One Belt One Road, all these show the Chinese vision and action in not only introducing regional system for Asia but extending the areas of their activities to Africa, Europe and finally even to Latin America.

President Xi Jinping expressed China’s determination to further push the globalisation process and provide impetus to tackling the global climate change, and even facing to meet serious challenges from terrorists and terrorism. China is now stepping up to fill in the vacancy abandoned by the Trump administration. China intends to cobble together the countries of the Asia Pacific region with the initiation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) to replace the Asia Pacific Partnership (APP), the linkage with which has been already abandoned by the United States. With the rise and spread of the Chinese economy, a new economic landscape is certainly on the rise on the global scale.

Should not our policy-makers give their serious thought to this emerging situation and weigh carefully and work efficiently to move on with strategic thinking and pragmatic approach so that Nepal does not feel left out from getting opportunities on the cards. There should be vigilance that Nepal should not run relentlessly with no foresight and forethought given to one side alone. The concerns of balance of interest and respect for sensitivity have to be prioritised in order that the doubt and suspicion of any move should not hang on when Nepal goes fast to get itself involved in the areas which can threaten the matters of interest and sensitivity of neighbours. In the emerging perspectives as is evident now, Nepal needs to act and prepare China-specific policies and programmes by considering context-specific in and around our region. Incisive knowledge and edge-cutting analysis would help chart policies and programmes relevant to China-specific.

Nepal’s bilateral dealings at the government level of Nepal and China have been moving with frictions on their way forward. Such relationship has been guided by the spirit and letters of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship concluded between the two neighbours on April 28, 1960. The Treaty was based and inspired by Panchasheel (five principles of co-existence). The Treaty appears to contain democratic principles of equality and mutual benefits with no slightest sense of secrecy perceived.

As the regional scenario has much changed in the economic and strategic arenas, the Treaty deserves the reviewing and revisiting to make it efficient and functionally consistent with the current trend of development in Asia. Now more and more spaces should be given to areas converging with the security-sensitivity and economic prosperity of both the countries with the appropriate insertion of provisions related with the ideals of equality and mutuality respected in the state-to-state relationship. Lagging behind the emerging opportunity would make the country forlorn throwing it to struggle hard in the future, when the situation may become fluid and unmanageable.

All essential preparations made in time would create appropriate conditions for protocols and concomitant provisions to be duly signed for implementation of understandings and agreements signed by the previous government. The conclusions of bilateral understandings and agreements remain fruitless unless genuine steps for their implementation are taken in time. Thus, preparations in advance, completed cautiously would certainly pave the way for the state visit by President Xi Jinping, the official invitation for which has been extended long time back. At the renewed request of Prime Minister Prachanda to President Xi to pay a visit to Nepal has indeed enlivened the prospect for his possible visit to Nepal. No question will arise about his visit if all political and bureaucratic authorities work properly and timely together to create congenial atmosphere for official businesses to be effected, and to achieve what have been intended for. This is what we can conclude from China’s diplomatic activities and dealings done with neighbouring countries.

On the conclusion of the visit by Prime Minister Prachanda of Nepal, Chinese experts have concluded that the visit has produced a positive development alongside an atmosphere for constructive cooperation in the bilateral relations, and have expressed their belief in maintaining friendly relations, whichever party may come to power in Nepal. Come good days and enrich the Nepali leaders with wisdom and foresight for the good of the nation and its people.

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