The landmark protocol on transit and transportation signed between Nepal and China during the visit of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to the northern neighbour in March 2016 is finally coming into implementation. Nepal has now gained the long cherished access to seven Chinese ports for conducting trade with third countries around the world. They include four ports at Tianjin, Liyanyungang, Shenzen, Zhanjiang that provide Nepal access to the sea. In addition, Nepal can now also use the land ports at Lanzhou, Lhasa and Shigatse. This is a matter of pride and happiness for Nepal in the backdrop of the fact that it has faced problems as a landlocked country time and again. With the new access to these port facilities, Nepal will no longer remain solely dependent on India for trade transit with third countries. Opening of these facilities in fact open new possibilities for smooth and unhindered trade and commerce activities. This makes a lot of sense at a time when Nepal has made epoch making political changes and is consequently striving to graduate to a developing country status.
The transit and transportation protocol was finalised by the joint secretary level meeting between Nepal and China on September 7, 2017. According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the seven Chinese ports have opened for Nepal from the New Year day of 2020. With China making unprecedented progress and advancement in transport infrastructure construction along the border with Nepal in its Tibet Autonomous Region, the potential of using these ports is becoming more viable. What’s more, these facilities free Nepal from the hitherto compulsion of depending on single immediate neighbour, India. Nepal has learned bitter lessons in the past with the imposition of trade blockade by India, the latest one taking place in 2015 following the promulgation of the new constitution. The embargoes from the southern neighbour have happened due to misunderstanding at the political level and have caused inhuman sufferings to the people in general, though the ties at the business and people’s level are always excellent. Nepal was not only asserting its rights of a landlocked nation as enshrined in the internal law but also striving to reduce its over dependence on one neighbout. The transit and transport protocol signed with China was a milestone in this regard.
At a time when China is working to connect the region and the world with trade infrastructure and connectivity vision of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it is in the interest of Nepal to be part of it and take maximum benefit for its development and prosperity. The northern neighbour is expanding its railway link up to the border with Nepal and Nepal is urging China to extend the railway up to Lumbini via Kathmandu. Such a transportation connectivity carries high prospects of trade, tourism and development cooperation. Such a land link also facilitates the use of the new ports that have opened for Nepal to be used for third country trade. By making the best use of the ports, Nepal can expedite its trade as well as stand strong not to be subdued by blockade on fuel and medicine supplies again.