Assessing the outcomes of PM Dahal’s official visit to Beijing
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is currently on a week-long visit to China, has skipped the disputed issues between two countries, a similar approach that he adopted when he visited India in May this year.
Dahal on Monday completed his official engagements in Beijing. He held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, his counterpart Li Qiang and Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China Zhao Leji.
In the meeting with Dahal, according to Xinhua News Agency, Xi said that China and Nepal have set an example of equal treatment and win-win cooperation between big and small countries. The Chinese leader, like always, also raised the issue of China’s concerns in Kathmandu, mainly of security interests.
Due to the fluid domestic political situation in Nepal and growing activities of Western powers, China is more concerned than ever about its security, according to an official. The two sides should always understand and support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns, and constantly consolidate the political foundation of bilateral relations, Xi told Dahal.
Dahal tried to reassure Nepal's firm adherence to the one-China policy. Both Taiwan and Tibet are inalienable parts of China's territory, and Nepal will not allow any forces to use its territory to undermine China’s sovereignty and security, Xinhua quoted Dahal as saying in the meeting. Another key priority of China was the Belt and Road Initiative, which was prominently figured out in all meetings in Beijing, including with Xi.
Noting that the two countries have made progress in BRI and the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network has taken shape, according to Chinese media, Xi urged efforts from both sides to promote infrastructure connectivity and expand transit transportation cooperation to help Nepal transform itself from a land-locked country to a land-linked at an early date.
Dahal appreciated the BRI and expressed keenness to join it, but there was no concrete progress on the matter. Of late, there are confusions about China’s BRI in Nepal. China has listed Pokhara International Airport under the BRI on which Nepal disagrees. A statement issued by Nepal's Foreign Ministry after Dahal's high-level engagement with Beijing leaders, does not mention anything about BRI. Over the past few months, Nepal has refused to mention BRI in the press statement, without providing any reasons behind it. But, there is a mention of BRI in the joint press statement.
A report published in The Global Times on September 24 says: “Nepal is also a beneficiary of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), through which Nepal has become a land-linked country from a landlocked one.”
The Pokhara International Airport, which the Chinese company China CAMC Engineering Co (CAMCE) helped build in Nepal, is a typical example, the report says, the project started in July 2017, and China provided a soft loan to nepal for this project, which not only created a model of development cooperation but also effectively guaranteed the smooth implementation of the project.
The much-anticipated deal on energy trade between Nepal and China did not materialize during Dahal’s visit. Weeks before his trip, the prime minister had publicly said that he would sign the energy trade deal with China. Similarly, the two sides had exchanged a draft of the BRI implementation plan, but the issue was skipped, citing the lack of sufficient homework. Though Nepal is keen on signing the trade agreement with China, experts say, prospects of power trade between the two countries are very slim.
Over the past few months, there have been talks about China’s Global Security Initiative (GSI), Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Civilizational Initiatives (GCI). Though the two sides touched upon these issues in Beijing, there was no concrete outcome. Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Chen Song briefly mentioned those initiatives through his X handle: “ … Dahal said that Nepal supports a series of important concepts and initiatives proposed by President Xi and is willing to work with China to promote the development of the international order in a more just and reasonable direction.”
Over the past few years, mainly after Xi Jinping’s Nepal visit in 2019, China has been focusing more on strategic partnership, a term China often uses in bilateral talks with countries from the Global South. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said China stands ready to work with Nepal to deepen strategic mutual trust, expand practical cooperation and elevate strategic cooperative partnership to a new height through the visit.
It seems PM Dahal did not raise the map issue with China despite pressure at home. A new map issued by China a few weeks back does not recognize the new map that Nepal’s Parliament had endorsed in 2020. The statement issued by Nepal's ministry does not say anything about the map issue.
Agreements between two countries
· Cooperating in the field of science, technology and innovation
· Letter of exchange on human resources
· Letter of exchange on providing disaster relief to Nepal
· Cooperation in the field of agriculture livestock and fisheries
· Joint technical working group to review Nepal-China payment agreement
· Export of plant-derived medicinal materials from Nepal to China
· Cooperation in translation and publication
· Handover of certificate of the production and living materials for northern hilly region of Nepal
· Cooperation in digital economy
· Cooperation on green and low-carbon development
· Agreement on implementation of Sijali higher secondary school project
PM Dahal says
- I am confident and optimistic that China-Nepal relations will be further consolidated, which will reach a new height during my tenure.
- Nepal views China’s development trajectory as an opportunity, with the BRI serving as a suitable platform for enhancing trans-Himalayan multidimensional connectivity.
- This connectivity has great potential for realizing Nepal’s economic goals while acting as a vibrant bridge between the two largest economies in Asia and also between China and South Asia.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between China and Nepal, solidifying mutual commitment to the BRI. We are fully prepared to take the maximum benefits from this cooperative framework.
- Nepali people have high expectations for the China-Nepal railway, and they are eager for the railway project to commence as soon as possible
- Nepal's relations with both China and India are guided by principles of good neighborliness, peaceful coexistence, and a non-aligned foreign policy. Nepal deals with China and India independently.
- Our relationship with one neighbor will not be influenced by our relationship with the other, nor will we seek to play one against the other.
- Both neighbors are close friends and important development partners. We will continue to develop our relationships with both the neighbors on a bilateral basis.
- If any differences arise with either of them, such issues will be resolved through friendly bilateral negotiations.
- China’s socialism and Mao’s ideas offer us valuable insights to improve the socio-economic status of the oppressed and economically disadvantaged class of people.
- Our key priorities with China include early and time-bound implementation of previously agreed upon agendas and understandings. At the same time, we want to further boost economic cooperation.
- Our particular emphasis is to attract more Chinese direct investments in Nepal, promote trans-Himalayan connectivity networks, increase Nepali exports to China, and address Nepal's trade deficit.
An excerpt of Dahal’s interview published in The Global Times
Major points of joint press statement
Nepal and China have come up with a joint statement after the official talks. Here are the major highlights:
- The two sides will maintain the momentum of high-level exchanges, deepen political mutual trust, and expand exchanges and cooperation at all levels between the two countries.
- The Nepali side reiterated its firm commitment to the one-China principle. Recognizing that the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal Government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, the Nepali side is against “Taiwan independence.” The Nepali side reiterated that Tibet affairs are China’s internal affairs, that it will never allow any separatist activities against China on Nepal’s soil.
- Two sides expressed their commitment to accelerate the consultations to finalize the text on the BRI Implementation Plan at an early date. They expressed readiness to exchange experiences on their development strategies, deepen practical cooperation in such fields as infrastructure connectivity, trade, tourism, production capacity and investment, and further deepen and solidify Belt and Road cooperation to deliver greater benefits to their peoples.
- Both sides agreed to accelerate the feasibility study of the Tokha-Chhare Tunnel project, recognizing that the project will elevate the level of connectivity between the two countries.
- The two sides expressed satisfaction over the progress of the feasibility study of the Jilong/Keyrung-Kathmandu Cross-Border Railway, and planned to hold the 8th Working Meeting on China-Nepal Railway Cooperation as early as possible. The Chinese side is ready to help Nepal train railway professionals.
- . The two sides agreed to undertake joint inspection of China-Nepal boundary
- The two sides maintained that law enforcement cooperation is of great significance to the security of the two countries, and agreed to further strengthen information exchange, capacity building and cooperation on training between their law enforcement institutions. The two sides agreed to expedite the ratification of the China-Nepal Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters
- The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the United Nations and other multilateral mechanisms to uphold the common interest of developing countries. The two sides support the multilateral trading system, and oppose protectionism
- The two sides expressed satisfaction over the outcomes of Prime Minister Prachanda’s visit to China, and agreed that the visit is of great significance to advancing the China-Nepal Strategic Partnership of Cooperation Featuring Ever-lasting Friendship for Development and Prosperity.
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