PM Oli’s China Visit Ensuring Implementation Of Past Deals
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had a bitter experience of the blockade imposed unofficially by India when he paid an official visit to China in March 2016. Some important agreements that include trade and transit agreement were signed during this visit. As the visit was held in the aftermath of the blockade, trade diversification was the buzzword. Minimising sole dependency on India with regard to imports of essential commodities including fuel was the motto. The kind of agreements reached then made the Nepali people feel that PM Oli had felt the suffocating heat of the embargo and sought long lasting solution because agreements were made to import about 30 per cent of fuel demand in Nepal from China and Nepal as a landlocked country would enjoy access to sea through China as well. Because of the agreements made with China and the way he stood firm with regard to opposing the embargo, the Nepali people awarded PM Oli who was also the chairman of the previous CPN-UML with victory in three tier elections-local, provincial and federal levels.
PM Oli is embarking on a 6-day official visit to China, the northern neighbour, on June 19, 27 months after he first visited China as the PM. Many things have changed since he visited China in March 2016 – unlike the previous government, present government has two-thirds majority in the parliament, the government is led by the NCP which has a near two-third majority in the parliament, and embargo-derailed relations with India have been put on track. But, unfortunately, certain things have not changed. Many of those agreements made during PM Oli’s first visit to China are yet to be implemented. And there is high possibility that agreements related to fuel imports will be kept pending. Nepal’s sole dependency on India in many things is likely to stay longer. Trade diversification is in limbo.
It is highly positive that, according to reports, new agreements on energy, transnational transmission lines, agriculture development cooperation, opening up of new trade routes/border points and construction of brides at borders in Rasuwa/Kerung and Tatopani/Zhangmu are likely to be singed during PM Oli’s visit.
If understanding made during Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali’s five-day visit to China made in April this year are to be put into action, PM Oli will also reach an agreement with his Chinese counterparty Li Keqiang on conducting feasibility study and preparing detailed project report of Nepal-China cross border railway from Keyrong to Kathmandu, and then from Kathmandu to Pokhara and Lumbini. During FM Gyawali’s visit, ‘both sides agreed to expedite the implementation of all agreements and understandings reached in the past, including those concluded during the visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in March 2016 and former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ in March 2017.’
Given the fact that Nepal-China relations have always moved forward smoothly and both have enjoyed all-weather friendship, PM Oli’s visit will take the bilateral relations to a new height. As per the development assistance provided to Nepal, China has been a generous friend and Nepal has also supported China through different means and measures in international issues. In the report presented in the 19th national congress of the CPC held in October 2017, general secretary Xi Jinping, who is also Chinese President, said, “China will deepen relations with its neighbours in accordance with the principle of amity, sincerity, mutual benefits, and inclusiveness and the policy of forging friendship and partnership with its neighbours.” In the report which guides the future action of the country, China pledged to increase assistance to the Least Developed Countries like Nepal in the coming years and the report also emphasised on ‘pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative as a priority’. In this context, as a neighbour of China, a partner in BRI and also a least developed country, it will be natural if China announces some greater package of assistance to Nepal during PM Oli’s visit.
As Nepal needs foreign investment for rapid economic development, PM Oli will find it hard to convince Chinese investors for investment, particularly in this context when a Chinese company has been ousted from building the Budhigandaki hydropower while controversial comments have come from government authorities with regard to construction of the West Seti hydropower project by the Chinese company namely three Gorges. It is a good thing that a 1,000 MW hydropower project, the Manag-Marsyangdi casket, is being offered for Chinese private companies to develop. But, as the China Gezhouba Group Company Limited was kicked out from process to build the Budhigandaki by the previous Sher Bahadur Deuba led government and the way the present government did not nullify the previous government’s decision in this regard (although the NCP leaders including PM Oli had then said they would overturn this decision) and now fate of the Three Gorges company in relation to development of West Seti hydropower project is kept uncertain, investment environment may seem discouraging for the Chinese.
It is hoped that PM Oli knows well that any delay in implementing the past agreements made with China including the one related to trade and transit and trans-Himalaya railway may have a negative political impact for him. Implementation of those important past agreements is critical for Nepal’s national independence as far as economy and foreign trade related to this. Trans-Himalayan railway has been attached to Nepali’s dream now. People have a very high expectation on PM Oli. To what extent the people’s expectations are met will depend on how timely the process to implement past agreements are taken and how the past agreements as well as the new ones which will be reached during this upcoming visit will be implemented in the interest of the country.