People's Review Weekly

68 years of Nepal-China diplomatic ties

- BY lIlA MANI PAUDYAl Paudyal is former Chief Secretary and former ambassador of Nepal to China. The Rising Nepal

The first of August marks the 68th anniversar­y of the establishm­ent of diplomatic relations between Nepal and China. The diplomatic relationsh­ip is founded on deep-rooted cultural, and economic ties that date back to more than two thousand years, from the periods of Buddha and Confucius. Luminaries crossed treacherou­s mountains, deep gorges, roaring rivers, and the mighty Himalayas, risking their lives in pursuit of knowledge and civilisati­onal exchanges. Nepal and China evolved amidst the world’s two most ancient civilisati­ons to the south and northeast of the Himalayas, respective­ly. The Himalayas have never been a barrier for their civilisati­onal exchanges. Over the past 68 years of diplomatic ties between the two immediate neighbours the bilateral relations have happily developed steadily, withstandi­ng the test of time despite significan­t changes in domestic, global and regional situations. Both countries adhere to the UN charter and the five principles of peaceful coexistenc­e and firmly believe in the peaceful resolution of bilateral and global disputes. They stand united against hegemony and the use of power by stronger nations against weaker ones. Mutual respect, sovereign independen­ce, and respect for each other's territoria­l integrity remain at the core of their relationsh­ip. Nestled between its two prominent neighbors, China and India, with vast disparitie­s in geography, economy, and military strength, Nepal has always been acutely sensitive of safeguardi­ng its sovereignt­y and territoria­l integrity. The Nepali people take immense pride in their history of never being colonised, making them one of the most ancient nation-states in the world.

China, as a good neighbor, has consistent­ly proven to be a trustworth­y ally, unequivoca­lly expressing its commitment to respecting Nepal's sovereignt­y. Shortly after China became the People's Republic, the Commander of the People's Liberation Army in Lhasa conveyed a message from Mao Zedong to the King of Nepal through the Nepali envoy in Lhasa in 1950 that China had no intentions of territoria­l expansion into Nepal.

Throughout successive leadership, from the era of Mao Zedong to the current leadership of Xi Jinping, China has consistent­ly reaffirmed its respect for Nepal's territoria­l integrity. This viewpoint has even been acknowledg­ed by an Indian Foreign Secretary and former Ambassador to China, who writes, "China showed no desire for territoria­l acquisitio­ns in Nepal. As for Nepal, it had a natural connection to its north as much as to its south, and its prosperity had traditiona­lly depended on trade with Tibet. It also saw itself as most secure when it could play the balance-of-power game in the Himalayas" (VIJAY GOKHALE, OCTOBER 04, 2021).

Nepal has maintained firm commitment to the One China policy, acknowledg­ing that Hong Kong and Taiwan are integral parts of China, and Xinjiang and Tibet are internal matters of China. Additional­ly, Nepal has consistent­ly assured China that its soil will not be used against their interest. This longstandi­ng assurance of both sides on their core interests have fostered a relationsh­ip of mutual trust and respect between them.

China and Nepal share a common aspiration for peace, developmen­t, and prosperity in the trans-Himalayan region, fostering a strong bond between the two neighborin­g countries. As the world's second-largest economy, China has been continuous­ly progressin­g towards socio-economic transforma­tion. But some countries view China's rise as a potential threat to them and has been resorting their power to halt its aspiration­s. Contrastin­gly, China's developmen­t has created new opportunit­ies for Nepal. China has been consistent­ly supporting in Nepal's social, economic, and cultural developmen­t endeavors, becoming an invaluable partner in Nepal's pursuit of prosperity. Today, China stands as Nepal's largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), second-largest source of tourism, second-largest trade partner and a major developmen­t partner. During Nepal's devastatin­g earthquake in 2015, China sent the most experience­d and highly profession­al search and rescue team immediatel­y after the disaster and also provided the largest amount of funds— of more than 50 billion rupees, for the reconstruc­tion and rehabilita­tion of the infrastruc­ture damaged by the earthquake. Furthermor­e, during the COVID-19 pandemic, China became the largest contributo­r of vaccines and essential supplies despite the acute shortage of vaccines and life support materials globally.

Nepal gifted N-95 masks to China before the pandemic erupted in Nepal when the latter was facing severe challenges due to the outbreak in early 2020. The two nations stand as friends in times of need, fostering a relationsh­ip built on mutual respect, solidarity, and a commitment to helping each other.

In 2017, both countries signed a MoU to jointly develop the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and promoting multidimen­sional connectivi­ty across the Himalayas. The BRI, proposed by President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to foster connectivi­ty and mutual developmen­t interests.

During President Xi Jinping's historic state visit to Nepal in 2019, Nepal-China relations were elevated to a 'Strategic cooperativ­e partnershi­p featuring everlastin­g friendship for developmen­t and prosperity.' More than 50 agreements have been signed during past eight years, covering all gamut of life that represent the common aspiration­s for peace, developmen­t and prosperity of the people in the region.

Since 2019, there have been no visits at the highest political level, primarily due to movement restrictio­ns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese investment­s have reportedly faced some policy impediment­s in recent times. Additional­ly, there are feeble but disgruntle­d voices expressing concerns about the slow implementa­tion of important agreements signed and passivity of the mechanisms constitute­d to foster the potential opportunit­ies.

However, it is essential to note that the people and leadership of Nepal have consistent­ly shown unity and support in promoting relations with China since the establishm­ent of diplomatic ties, maintainin­g the principled relations with China that have spanned almost seven decades. And this spirit is crucial for Nepal's continued stability and progress.

Nepal should look at its relations with China independen­tly and avoid being swayed by narratives based on Chinabashi­ng or the Chinathrea­t theory. Focusing on constructi­ve engagement is vital for fostering mutual understand­ing and cooperatio­n between the two countries.

A high-level visit from Nepal to China eagerly awaits to be convened at the earliest mutually convenient time. During the visit, the leaders could renew their mutual trust and reaffirm their commitment to support each other's core interests and concerns. It is crucial for both countries to exert utmost efforts in expediting the implementa­tion of agreements and understand­ings signed in recent years, upholding the spirit of a 'strategic partnershi­p of cooperatio­n featuring everlastin­g friendship for developmen­t and prosperity.' Nepal-China relations should contribute to peace, developmen­t, and prosperity in the transHimal­ayan region, serving the best interests of both the countries. Nepal stands to gain immense benefits from continued and enhanced relations with China. The relationsh­ip between the two countries is not directed against any third party; it solely aims to enhance mutually beneficial cooperatio­n and contribute to regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

May Nepal-China relations flourish forever and serve as an exemplary model of cordial relations between two neighbors of significan­tly different size, economy, and demography. Long live Nepal-China friendship.

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