Monday, 27 September, 2021

Bond Of Connectivity

The October 12-13 state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping can be termed as highly successful as it accelerates the momentum and opens the path for the much sought for trans-Himalayan connectivity for development. President Xi, who is the Chinese head of state to pay a state visit to Nepal after 23 years, pledged robust cooperation and support to make Nepal land-linked and make Nepali people prosperous and happy. When this development vision comes to fruition, Nepal will no longer be lagging behind under the limitation of a land-locked nation. Both the neighbours have pledged to take development partnership and cooperation to newer heights to meet the goal of Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali. On Sunday, Nepal and China agreed to increase cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a signature development vision of President Xi that extends beyond national borders. Under the plan, connectivity will be expanded through the development of ports, roads, railways, aviation and communication.

For this lofty plan to be materialised, major infrastructure projects will be implemented under the Trans-Himalayan Multidimensional Connectivity Network. When the multi-pronged connectivity projects come into implementation, Himalayas will no longer remain as a barrier to Nepal-China trade, transit, interaction, exchanges, cooperation and partnerships. Nepal highly values the Chinese cooperation as it endeavours hard to graduate to developing nation status by 2022 from its current least developed status. By 2030, the nation has the goal of becoming a middle income nation. Under the land connectivity plan, the two nations have agreed to conduct feasibility study of the Keyrung-Kathmandu railway project. Assurances have also come from the northern neighbour to support the construction of the proposed Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway project.

Construction of well-equipped dry ports between the two countries is a major infrastructure on land connectivity to expedite trade and commerce. In this regard, China has agreed to open Lizi-Nechung dry port across the Korala border. The Zhangmu-Khasa port is currently serving for freight operation and the Jilong-Keyrung port is expected to become operational in the near future. China has already constructed the Larcha dry port at Tatopani border point which will boost trade transaction flow once the Arniko Highway connecting Kathmandu and Khasa is upgraded. The northern neighbour has agreed to upgrade this trade highway that was damaged by the devastating earthquake of April 2015 and its persistent aftershocks.

A joint statement issued on Sunday at the wrap-up of President Xi’s state visit states that agreement has been reached on the tunnel construction of the Keyrung-Kathmandu road. China is supporting Nepal to upgrade the Syaphrubensi-Rasuwagadhi road into a two-lane highway. This highway will significantly facilitate the cross-border transportation of merchandise and people’s movement. The northern neighbour is supporting to develop Koshi, Gandaki and Karnali Economic Corridors to create jobs, improve livelihood of the local people and stimulate economic growth. Nepal is observing 2020 as Visit Nepal Year with the goal of bringing in two million foreign visitors. President Xi has expressed his commitment to make this tourism campaign a success by promoting Nepali destinations among prospective Chinese visitors. At a time when Nepal has a large trade deficit with China, the northern neighbour has also given assurance of taking positive steps to boost Nepali export to China.