Pro­duc­tive five years in Nepal-China re­la­tions

People's Review - - LAST PAGE - The au­thor of this ar­ti­cle is the Nepalese Am­bas­sador to China. LEELAMANI PAUDYAL

The age-old re­la­tions be­tween Nepal and China have con­tin­ued to go from strength to strength af­ter the es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions in 1955. These time-tested re­la­tions are marked by pro­found friend­ship, deep un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of each other's as­pi­ra­tions and sen­si­tiv­i­ties. Nepal highly val­ues its re­la­tions with China as a trusted all­weather friend. Our re­la­tions have con­tin­ued to flour­ish de­spite ma­jor po­lit­i­cal changes in Nepal and in the global arena. China's sup­port for the in­de­pen­dence, sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity of Nepal with­out in­ter­fer­ing in its in­ter­nal af­fairs is a spe­cial fea­ture of Nepal-China re­la­tions. In re­sponse, Nepal abides by its com­mit­ment to the one-China pol­icy, which is also an in­te­gral part of our for­eign pol­icy. The past five years have seen a re­mark­able ex­pan­sion and deep­en­ing of re­la­tions be­tween Nepal and China on many fronts. More than 35 im­por­tant high-level vis­its be­tween the two coun­tries have taken place in those five years. Over two dozen agree­ments were signed dur­ing the pe­riod, in­clud­ing the Trans­port and Tran­sit Agree­ment and Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing on joint im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive. Cur­rently, more than 5,000 stu­dents are study­ing Chi­nese lan­guage at the Con­fu­cius In­sti­tute at Kathmandu Univer­sity, and around 200 Nepali stu­dents are study­ing Chi­nese lan­guage in sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties across China. Five years back, these num­bers were in­signif­i­cant. Such co­op­er­a­tion is ex­pected to help en­hance Nepal's tech­ni­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, and con­trib­ute to the coun­try's so­cioe­co­nomic progress. Tourism and in­vest­ment are two po­ten­tial ar­eas for win-win co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Nepal and China. Nepal of­fers un­par­al­leled op­por­tu­ni­ties for tourists to en­joy nat­u­ral beauty and cul­tural tra­di­tions. China is the largest source of out­bound tourists with the high­est per capita ex­pen­di­tures. China is the sec­ond-largest source coun­try in terms of tourist ar­rivals in Nepal since 2014. China has de­clared 2017 as Nepal Tourism Pro­mo­tion Year in China. Sim­i­larly, Nepal has his­tor­i­cally served as an im­por­tant lynch­pin in con­nect­ing South Asia with Cen­tral and East Asia. To­day, the Silk Road ini­tia­tive can play a vi­tal role in re­vi­tal­iz­ing the trade routes in the re­gion. Nepal has abun­dant nat­u­ral re­sources, whereas Chi­nese en­ter­prises have the tech­no­log­i­cal know-how and fi­nan­cial re­sources for in­vest­ments. Un­der the Belt and Road ini­tia­tive, Chi­nese in­vestors may uti­lize the in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Nepal for mu­tual ben­e­fit. In 2016, China oc­cu­pied the top po­si­tion in terms of the in­flow of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment in Nepal. China's grant as­sis­tance has made it one of the largest of the devel­op­ment part­ners sup­port­ing Nepal, and has in­creasewd man­i­fold in the past five years. Nepal and China are both coun­tries with high in­ci­dences of earth­quake and flood-re­lated disas­ters. There­fore, there is great scope for mu­tual co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries in dis­as­ter pre­pared­ness, re­lief and re­con­struc­tion. Fol­low­ing the earth­quakes of 2015, China was one of the most sig­nif­i­cant providers of sup­port for Nepal. The Belt and Road ini­tia­tive pro­posed by Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping four years ago is an epoch-mak­ing pro­posal that has in­jected hope for in­clu­sive devel­op­ment with a view to cre­at­ing a har­mo­nious so­ci­ety. Nepal has signed an MoU for joint devel­op­ment of BRI for com­mon pros­per­ity and re­gional sta­bil­ity. There is enor­mous fu­ture po­ten­tial for trade and in­vest­ments be­tween China and South Asia. The Hi­malayan passes at the Nepal-China bor­der have served as im­por­tant gate­ways for trav­el­ers be­tween China and South Asia for cen­turies. The time is ripe to re­vive the an­cient glory ac­quired from ex­changes be­tween China and South Asia, and Nepal stands ready to of­fer its sup­port for in­te­gra­tion to­ward com­mon pros­per­ity. The devel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture along the trans-Hi­malayan re­gion is cru­cial for pro­mot­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­sure ef­fi­cient move­ment of peo­ple and goods across the re­gion. Re­gional co­op­er­a­tion and un­der­stand­ing is re­quired to op­ti­mize the ben­e­fits of trans-Hi­malayan con­nec­tiv­ity. Nepal and China should fo­cus their co­op­er­a­tion ar­range­ment on build­ing crit­i­cal rail­way in­fra­struc­ture in the Hi­malayan re­gion and re­move bar­ri­ers for a seam­less move­ment of peo­ple, goods and ser­vices.

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