Nepal signs deal to gain access to Chinese ports

- ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu
To PM Oli’s request to build rail lines, China says train connectivity a ‘longer-term plan’

Mar 22, 2016-In a bid to shift away from heavy dependence on India, Nepal on Monday signed an agreement with China to use transit facilities for third country trade by using the ports of the northern neighbour. However, poor infrastructure on the Nepali side, difficult geographical terrain and without the reach of Chinese train up to Nepali border in Kerung (Gyirong in Chinese side)—the only trading point between Nepal and China at present—Nepal may not be able to avail itself of the Chinese port facilities immediately in Tianjin. 

Seamless use of Chinese facilities could start in 2020 at the earliest, when the Chinese rail network is scheduled to reach Kerung, according to officials. Tatopani, another Nepal-China trading point, that has remained closed since the April 25 earthquake is yet to open, and there is no official confirmation from the Chinese side whether it will ever open it up.

According to Reuters news agency, after a meeting between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Hou Yanqi, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asia Division, described the rail connectivity as a “longer-term plan”. 

“Of course, a further extension from Gyirong is an even longer-term plan. It’s up to geographic and technical conditions, financing ability. We believe that far in the future the two will countries be connected by rail,” she was quoted as saying.

During the meeting, PM Oli requested China to build three rail lines—-one connecting three of Nepal’s most important cities, other crossing the border from China into Nepal, and a monorail in Kathmandu. 

“The government would encourage Chinese firms to look at the internal rail plan, and that China was already planning to extend the railway from the Tibetan city of Shigatse to Gyirong on the Nepal border,” she said.

Nepal has so far been conducting its third country trade through Kolkata-based Haldiya port in India. During PM Oli’s India visit last month, New Delhi agreed to make Visakhapatnam port available for Nepal’s use as well, acquiescing to an earlier request from Nepal. 

n Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday. REUTERS

busy day in Beijing

Prime Minister KP Oli on Monday met Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in the Great Hall of the People and discussed a wide range issues 

Oli extended an invitation, on behalf of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, to Xi to visit Nepal 

Oli and Xi agreed to take bilateral relations to new heights according to the changed context

According to Chinese Premier Office’s website, Li said China “appreciates Nepal’s adherence to one-China policy and unswervingly supports Nepal’s efforts in maintaining sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity

Oli said China-Nepal friendship, an example for relations among countries with different systems and sizes, is solid and will not be affected by any external influence

China said it will take Nepal’s reconstruction as an opportunity in capacity cooperation and strengthening cooperation in building materials

Published: 22-03-2016 08:19

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