Sunday, 1 August, 2021

Promoting Friendship With China

Prof. Mohan P. Lohani


If one were to characterise the recent two-day state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal, it would be most appropriate to describe it as fruitful and successful. President Xi, who visited this country after a gap of 23 years, and members of his entourage were visibly overwhelmed with the warmth of hospitality and the most cordial welcome extended to the visiting dignitary and his delegation by the people and government of this country from the core of their heart.

Pleasant sojourn
It was more or less a little more than 20 hours’ sojourn to Kathmandu comparable to the same time President Xi spent in India for informal talks with PM Modi of India. Nepal, indeed, spared no pains to make the Chinese dignitary’s overnight stay in the capital pleasant and comfortable. On the day of President Xi’s departure for home, Nepal and China signed nearly 20 agreements, including MoUs in different fields ranging from infrastructure development, health, education, commerce, industry and tourism to feasibility study of cross-border railway connectivity from Kerung to Lumbini via Kathmandu. A joint communique has been issued at the end of Xi’s visit highlighting bilateral friendship.
Speeches delivered by two leaders at the state banquet hosted by President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Saturday evening in honour of President Xi received wide applause and appreciation. President Xi drew loud cheers and applause when he supported Nepal’s desire to overcome the stigma of being landlocked and switch over to the status of a land-linked country by developing Trans-Himalayan Multidimensional Connectivity Network. In fact, in this age of miraculous scientific and technological advancement, a country’s land-lockedness can no longer be a serious impediment to growth and development.
Echoing PM Oli’s recent statement that he valued friendship with China more than Chinese assistance or grant for Nepal’s development, President Xi, referring to problem-free relations between the two countries, placed high premium on friendship which, in his own words, would further grow much stronger in the days to come. Nevertheless, the announcement of Rs. 56 billion in economic assistance should be viewed as China’s friendly gesture to help this resource starved country.
It was equally reassuring to hear President Xi’s readiness to make connectivity between the two countries a reality by opening up additional entry points. China, we know, has succeeded in recent years in alleviating poverty and uplifting 800 million people from the morass of poverty. President Xi has offered to help Nepal combat the growing incidence of poverty in this country. Nepal can, thus, learn from China’s success story as an economic power house in a little over four decades after China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping adopted an open door policy which attracted FDI of unprecedented magnitude to modernise its economy to the extent of allowing China to emerge as the second largest economy of the world.
When President Xi laid stress on the need for establishing ‘a strategic cooperative partnership relation’ between Nepal and China so as to facilitate this country’s development and prosperity at accelerated pace, the people of this country viewed this remark as an expression of the visiting dignitary’s sincere desire to make bilateral partnership more meaningful and productive. Tourism is also a vital component of Nepal’s economy. President Xi has extended a helping hand to Nepal to make Visit Nepal 2020 a roaring success by encouraging Chinese tourists to visit this country in large numbers.
President Bhandari very aptly commented on Nepal-China relations as being deeper than the ocean and taller than Sagarmatha. She reiterated Nepal’s commitment to further strengthening bilateral relations in order to elevate traditional and long standing friendship to a new height, implying such friendship will be ‘taller than Sagarmatha’. President Bhandari rightly observed that the fundamentals of foreign policy being pursued by the two countries are guided, among others, by Panchsheel or the five principles of peaceful coexistence. China practices what it professes.
Likewise, Nepal is highly appreciative of China’s consistent support and respect for this country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. On our part, Nepal, too, has categorically and repeatedly stated that there will be no deviation from our commitment to ‘one-China policy’, which has been appreciated by the Chinese leadership. Nepal is fully aware of the legitimate security concern of our northern neighbour. Times without number, Nepal has assured both our neighbours that our territory will not be allowed to be misused for hostile activities against them.
President Bhandari clearly articulated the feelings and aspirations of the people of Nepal, particularly regarding railway connectivity from Kerung to Lumbini via Kathmandu. Similarly, her appeal to Chinese investors to invest in Nepal in the prevailing peaceful environment which is investment friendly and fully secure echoes the people’s aspiration for boosting productivity and promoting export-led development.

She was for implementing some agreements, already signed, like the transit-transport agreement which, if implemented without delay, would reduce Nepal’s dependence on a particular country for transit route and facilities. Now that the protocol to the agreement has already been signed, we are waiting for its speedy implementation. Finally, what is important is the willingness on both sides to implement as expeditiously as possible past agreements and the recently concluded agreements and MoUs during President Xi’s visit to Nepal, thus paving the way for further friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

(Professor Lohani is former Nepali ambassador to Bangladesh.)