Achievements Of PM’s China Visit
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s China visit (June 19-24) can be taken in a good light as it has helped in consolidating the Nepal-China relations in a new perspective. The visit took place on the heels of Oli’s successful India visit about three months ago. Although the visit may be taken as a ritual as every prime minister tends to visit his southern and northern neighbours after assuming the reins of government, both the visits have proved to be fruitful.
Nepal is a country that has to depend on its neighbours and other countries for the sustenance of its economy. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the economy of the country is supported mainly by remittances, taxes and foreign assistance. Most of the development projects of the country run on foreign assistance. Being a least developed country, it has to look to developed countries and international donors and agencies to embark upon its development projects.
Against such a backdrop, it is but natural for Nepal to execute deals on development activities with the help of its friendly countries as well as international donors and agencies. Continuing with this practice, a plethora of deals in the form of agreements, MoUs and letters of exchange were signed with China during Prime Minister Oli’s visit. They pertain to grid interconnection, hydropower, manufacturing, agriculture, human resource development and so on. Accordingly, a feasibility study of the Nepal-China Cross-border Power Grid Interconnection Project will be carried on by both the countries. Further, a feasibility study of the 400 KVA Kerung-Rasuwagadhi-Galchhi-Ratmate transmission lines will also be carried on.
Other deals pertain, inter alia, to Nepal-China cooperation programmes and projects, cooperation on energy, railways, use of Tibetan highways for cargo transport, reconstruction of the Tatopani Bridge, production, human resources operations, reconstruction of the Nuwakot Durbar and public school recovery/reconstruction programmes in Rasuwa, Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk. Nepal and China also agreed on enhancement of bilateral cooperation in connectivity, trade, tourism and investment. Prime Minister Oli also invited Chinese entrepreneurs to invest in Nepal as the investment environment is building up in the country due mainly to political stability.
The most important achievement of Prime Minister Oli’s visit is China’s commitment to develop railways in Nepal. The Lhasa-Shigatse (Xigaze) railway will be brought up to Kerung, whence it will be extended to Kathmandu and then to Pokhara and Lumbini on the Belt and Road Initiative model. The BRI is a mega-project of China that aims at enhancing cooperation and connectivity between Asian and European nations through sophisticated transport systems. It may be noted that Nepal is a signatory of the BRI initiative. As per the agreement on railways, a pre-feasibility study of the Kerung-Kathmandu electric railway will be conducted by August. Thereafter, a feasibility study will be carried on. After the completion of the feasibility study, discussions will be held by both the countries on the modality of investment.
China is one of the trustworthy friends of Nepal. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1955. They respect each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. They do not poke their noses into each other’s internal affairs. Although China is far greater than Nepal in terms of both area and economy, the former has never dominated or disparaged the latter. In fact, China, even if it is the second biggest economy in the world, has no feeling of arrogance and respects even smaller countries.
Nepal always sticks to the One-China Policy and treats Tibet and Taiwan as China’s internal matters. It does not allow its soil to be used for anti-China activities. And China does not interfere in the country’s internal affairs and always adopts a supportive attitude towards it. It is gratifying to note that many deals on development for the benefit of Nepal were signed with China during Prime Minister Oli’s visit. However, it is perhaps more important than inking new deals to implement the past agreements between the country and China. During the visit, this matter was also raised and both the countries also pledged themselves to translate the agreements inked in the past into action, which is a welcome step.
The aforementioned agreements made on a wide-ranging array of development projects are a positive omen for Nepal. But what is lacking is the agreement on the import of petroleum products from China. During the 2015 Indian blockade, the country had to face an acute shortage of fuel, gas and other essential products and adopted a policy of importing 33 per cent fuel from countries other than India. For this, a trade and transit agreement was also signed with China. This time, Prime Minister Oli did not deem it necessary to take the initiative in paving the way for the import of petroleum products, which is a contretemps.
Nepal knows well that it will have to pay the price should it have to face a blockade or something again a la the 2015 Indian embargo. It is more than imperative to break the dependence on a single country for essential products. China is also ready to supply the country with petroleum products. It is topographically more difficult for the country to import goods from China than from India. But necessary infrastructure can be built to overcome this topographical barrier and China will also assist the country in the development of such infrastructure. But the country should take the initiative in this regard.
Anyway, Prime Minister Oli’s China visit has added a feather in cap of Nepal-China relations. China has once again proved that it is Nepal’s true friend and partner in development. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has also said that he will visit Nepal at his convenience. The visit has thus reinvigorated the Nepal-China relations, which are expected to grow further in the years to come.