Saturday, 8 August, 2020
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OPINION

A Landmark Visit Of President Xi Jinping



Uttam Maharjan

 

The visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal from October 12 to 13 has proved to be a milestone in Nepal-China relations. The Visit took place after a hiatus of 23 years since 1996 when the then Chinese President, Jiang Zemin, visited Nepal. The visit has fulfilled the long-cherished dream of Nepal, which had been looking forward to it for long.
Nepal has cordial relations with China. China is a development partner in the country's development efforts and has assisted the country in various fields of development since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1955 AD. Nepal and China, both members of the United Nations, have raised voices in favour of underdeveloped countries at various international fora. They have shared interests in and viewpoints on contemporary issues.
Although the sojourn of the Chinese President in Nepal was short, lasting just two days, eighteen agreements and two letters of exchange were signed between Nepal and China, the most important one being the one on the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network. From now onwards, all the China-funded projects will be coordinated under the Network. The Network is part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), to which Nepal is one of the signatories. The BRI is an ambitious project initiated under the dynamic leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which covers vast swathes of area, including Asia, Europe and Africa. It is a matter of gratification to note that the Chinese President has assured Nepal that China will help the country to become a land-linked country through connectivity.
Being a land-locked country, Nepal has been facing various geographical difficulties. The country has to mostly depend on India for its import and export trade. At times, it has to face trade embargoes at the hands of India for no fault of its own, the latest embargo being the one imposed by India on the country over the disgruntlement with some provisions of the new constitution in apparent collusion with the country's own Madhesi parties. As such, strengthening connectivity has been an exigent need for Nepal to shake off such geographical obstacles.
Other important agreements cover, inter alia, the feasibility study of the Nepal-China cross-border railways, upgrading of the Arniko Highway, the reconstruction of the Syaphubensi-Rasuwagadhi highway, construction of the Koshi, Gandaki and Karnali economic corridors and the construction of tunnels from Jilong/Kerung to Kathmandu. Nepal has signed a protocol to the transit and transport agreement with China and China has allowed Nepal to use its seven ports, three dry ports and four seaports. But for lack of infrastructure, Nepal has not been able to take advantage of the agreement. However, both Nepal and China have agreed to complete the internal procedures and implement the agreement at the earliest. The agreement can play a crucial role in helping Nepal to overcome setbacks posed by its being land-locked.
Nepal and China have been enjoying hassle-free relations for years. Both respect each other's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. Nepal is always committed to the One-China policy and takes caution that no anti-China activities take place in its soil. There are thousands of Tibetan refugees living in the country. They are frequently involved in the 'Free Tibet' movement. As a strong advocate of the One-China Policy, which chiefly states that Tibet is an integral part of China, Nepal has been watching over the activities of Tibetan refugees.
On the other hand, China always shows friendly gestures to Nepal. China has agreed to open several entry points on the Nepal-China border, which will facilitate trade relations between the two countries. But the thing is the road infrastructure in Nepal is poor. Such infrastructure needs to be maintained or upgraded so as to allow the trade between the two countries to proceed like clockwork. On the one hand there are topographical impediments, while on the other the conditions of the roads are poor. To take benefits from connectivity, Nepal should take the initiative in improving road infrastructure without delay.
One of the important aspects of the visit is that the Chinese President has assured Nepal that he will help the country to make the Visit Nepal Year 2020 a success by encouraging more and more Chinese tourists to visit the country. The grand campaign, which aims to bring in two million tourists, is just around the corner. Nepal has been making preparations to make the campaign a success. As China has a huge population and a large number of Chinese tourists visit various countries yearly, this fine gesture on the part of the Chinese President regarding increasing the flow of Chinese tourists to Nepal should be appreciated.
Now that as many as twenty agreements, including two letters of intent, have been made between Nepal and China, Nepal should see to it that these agreements are implemented in earnest. For this, a follow-up mechanism should be developed so that the agreements will not be limited to paper only. As Nepal has a stable government unlike in the past, implementing the agreements in close coordination with the concerned authorities of China should not be a problem. The country should, therefore, show sincerity towards implementing the agreements, which will help it in realising its much-hyped 'Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali' goal.

(Former banker, Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000. He can be reached at uttam.maharjan1964@gmail.com)

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