PM's China Visit New Impetus To Relations

Narayan Upadhyay

Nepal's endeavours to deepen the friendly bilateral relation further with China will get special focus when Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli leaves for his official visit China visit, on June 19, his second in three years. Prime Minister Oli has visited two immediate neighbours which is testimony to the fact that his government accords higher priority to its relations with China and India. Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, who visited China some two months ago and discussed many issues of bilateral importance with his Chinese counterpart and other officials, had actually set the tone of the PM's China visit in June, this year.

The Nepali PM will embark on the China visit as a powerful head of the government, who is currently enjoying a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. The unification of his erstwhile party the CPN-UML with the Maoist (Centre) has given him an immense political muscle, which will certainly put him at a comfort zone while inking various agreements and having negotiations with the Chinese side.

Avenues

Besides giving a new impetus to the friendly relations between the two close neighbours, the visit is expected to open up new avenues of bilateral trade and other official exchanges between the two immediate neighbours. The PM's visit will certainly centre around bringing more Chinese supports to Nepal in various fields.

The trade and transit treaty, which was inked by the two nations when PM Oli visited China in 2016 during his first stint as PM in the aftermath of Indian blockade is expected to be implemented after the PM's visit. Talks on the implementation of Chinese funded projects in Nepal, which the Chinese side wants to bring them under the Belt and Road Initiative, would also be held with a view to bring more Chinese investments in Nepal.

The opening of the several Nepal-China border points to facilitate Nepal's trade with China would also be on the table during the high level visit from Nepal. Many, especially the business community of Nepal, have hoped that the Chinese side would bring the crucial Tatopani border point into operation to facilitate the Nepali export and import business to and from China. This border point has been shut after the 2015 earthquake citing safety and security reasons. After the Chinese side built a dry port near Tatopani, it is expected the Tatopani border and custom point would be operational during or after the PM's visit.

The discussion on bringing the Chinese rail network up to Nepal border and then to Kathmandu, Pokhara and to Lumbini will get a special focus during the visit. The much-talked about railway network of which feasibility study has already been undertaken by the Chinese authority, will be built under the BRI.

In the meantime, the Chinese side would be expecting to expand their reach to the various Nepali development projects. In recent years, the Chinese appears making a strong presence in Nepal and investments in the Nepali projects would give them more such opportunities.

It is often stated that the Chinese side had strongly wanted to see political stability in Nepal which is why they had 'urged' the two major communist parties, the erstwhile CPN-UML and the Maoist (Centre) not only to forge electoral alliance but to unify to make one strong bigger communist party in Nepal. The recent unification of two parties and their two-thirds majority in the parliament must have made the Chinese authority as happier as anyone who wants to see political stability taking deep-root in Nepal. At least, for the next five years, the Oli-led government will be a stable one, providing the Chinese side an opportunity to bring in more investments in Nepal.

More importantly, the visit will send a message to the world: Nepal is not dependent for its trade and transit, supports and on its economic well-being on one particular nation. The implementation of the trade and transit treaty with China, which our PM had inked with China in the aftermath of Indian blockade, would rightly disseminate this message. After the visit, more Chinese investments in the Nepali projects are likely to flow, especially in the infrastructure sector.

The visit will prove a milestone in balancing our relationship with our two immediate neighbours, which must be done meticulously. Both China and Nepal accord high priority to our relations based on the principle of Panchasheel- peaceful co-existence, mutual respect, mutual cooperation and respect to sovereignty of each nation. The geopolitics does not allow Nepal to have a strong relation with one neighbour at the cost of other.

The Nepalese authority must remain focussed on maintaining sound relation with both nations, by not playing one against other. The two neighbours, whose economy in recent years have grown by leaps and bounds, must respect a tiny neighbour like Nepal by providing it all opportunities to get connected with outer world and to its access to rest of the world through water, land and air.

With the newly unified strong Nepal Communist Party is at helm, the Chinese side is expected to accord higher priority to the visit of the PM who is also the chairperson of the party and who, along with the erstwhile Maoist Centre Chair Prachanda, had jointly unified the party. Some even say that the unification of the two communist parties was carried out to send a positive vibes in China before PM's Oli's official visit.

Benefits

PM Oli's visit will witness Nepal's closeness with China growing deeper. It is said that Oli government has already enjoyed an excellent relation with China, that nation that has in recent time increased its presence in Nepal. China has proved to be a good friend in the time of crises in the past. Nepal, on the other hand, will boost Chinese confidence by remaining committed to its "One China Policy" and by according higher priority to the Chinese concerns about its security. The Nepali Prime Minister's official visit to China will deepen our ties with the northern neighbour and will bring more benefits to Nepal through Chinese assistance and investments, which would be beneficial for the government's development and prosperity endeavours.

 

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