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‘Develop surface links under Silk Road plan’

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 13, 2018-

Nepal needs to focus on developing surface connectivity along eight proposed north-south corridors under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), experts and stakeholders said.

Speaking at a seminar entitled Strengthening Cooperation to Promote the Construction of the Belt and Road between Nepal and China organised by the Nepal-China Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCCI) on Monday, they said that opening these gateways could also help enhance Nepal’s trade with China and other third countries.

Nepal signed a framework agreement on the BRI on May 12, 2017, four years after it was launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of his ambitious plan to expand links between Asia, Africa and Europe in a modern avatar of the Silk Road. China has planned to invest a large amount of funds in infrastructure development under the BRI.

With China pressing Nepal to expedite project selection for the initiative, the government has started short listing some major infrastructure schemes. So far, five ministries have identified some 22 projects that could be built under the BRI. Nepal has not yet submitted detailed proposals about the projects to the northern neighbour, however.

Speaking at the programme, foreign affairs analyst Hiranya Lal Shrestha said Nepal would benefit more if the proposed road connectivity can be developed along north-south corridors. Shrestha stressed construction of road corridors on the Thori-Kerung, Rani-Kimathanka, Tatopani-Nyalam and Lumbini-Manasarovar-Lhasa-Kathmandu route to reap maximum benefits out of the BRI. “While the Rani-Kimathanka road will help to connect eastern Nepal, the Tatopani-Nyalam route will become a strategic link following the construction of an economic processing zone at Panchkhal in Kavrepalanchok district,” Shrestha said.

“Similarly, the Thori-Kerung road corridor will allow Nepal to act as a transit point for international trade, and the Lumbini-Manasarovar-Lhasa-Kathmandu route can help boost the number of pilgrims.”

The BRI offers shared prosperity to the signatory countries, said Chinese Ambassador Yu Hong. So far, 86 countries have signed memorandums of cooperation for the initiative. According to the Chinese envoy, Nepal can benefit from the investment package worth Chinese RMB 215 billion that China is spending under the BRI.

Yu said China was interested in helping Nepal benefit through promotion of free trade and development of cross-border infrastructures. “For the purpose, Nepal has to focus on promoting its exportable products with high competitive advantage.”

The BRI offers Nepal a huge opportunity for cross-border credit and cross-border investment, said NCCCI President Rajesh Kazi Shrestha. He urged the government to focus on basic pre-requisites in connectivity, infrastructure development and policy amendments, among others.

“In order to harness benefits from the BRI in the long run, Nepal is eager to welcome investments in various possible sectors such as hydropower, agriculture, trade related infrastructure, tourism, herbs and herbal products, natural resources and service businesses,” Shrestha said.

Published: 13-02-2018 10:31

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