In Beijing, PM sets tone for China visit

  • Recalls 2016 agreement on trade and transitAkhilesh Upadhyay
- Post Report, Beijing

Jun 20, 2018-On the day of his arrival in Beijing, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday set the tone for his visit by recalling that his 2016 visit to the Chinese capital was historic, an occasion that brought the two sides to a groundbreaking political understanding on diversifying Nepal’s trade and transit.

“I have very fond memories of my visit to the People’s Republic of China in March 2016 as prime minister of Nepal,” Oli said at a programme organised by the Nepali Embassy where members of Beijing’s diplomatic community, former Chinese diplomats based in Nepal, Chinese scholars and prominent members of China’s business community were present.

“During the visit we, the leaders of Nepal and China, agreed to elevate our bilateral relations to a higher pedestal,” he said of the agreements reached two years ago.

Nepal and China signed 10 framework agreements on trade and transit when Oli last visited Beijing as prime minister during the Indian border blockade.

In the elections to three tiers of government last year, the erstwhile CPN-UML’s defiant posturing against India earned it new constituencies.

PM Oli will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday and his counterpart Li Keqiang on Thursday.

Prime minister’s aides have stressed that PM Oli will primarily focus on the visit’s political symbolism rather than its economic gains. The emphasis will be on operationalising the 2016 agreements on trade and transit. In his visit—three days in Beijing and two days in Lhasa—the prime minister and his team will work on deepening mutual trust and seeing each other as long-term partners.

There are some concerns in Beijing over “little progress on the ground” in the last two years since the two sides signed landmark agreements on trade and transit to cut down Nepal’s historical dependence on India. Both sides are responsible for it and in Nepal’s case, it was because of political fluidity, said informed sources. After Oli reached the deals, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Sher Bahadur Deuba succeeded him, and both the governments lacked political will to sign the supporting protocols.

“The challenge for Prime Minister Oli is to deepen the ties with China, without alienating India,” said a senior government official. “Early signs show that he has been able to strike a fine balance.”

The second reason the signing of the trade and transit protocol has been delayed is because of Chinese reluctance—as China has understandable security concerns about opening the Tibetan region to Nepali traffic without proper security safeguards, said the government official. “So the Nepal-Tibet transit facilities will deepen in the years to come but it will be a gradual process. China wants to be assured that Nepal is capable of handling its security concerns.”

Nepal and China have agreed to operationalise eight border transit points, in connection with Tibetan highways for supplying goods to Nepali citizens close to the northern border.

The border points are Uripasa in Bajhang, Rasuwagadhi in Rasuwa, Tinker in Darchula, Tiplapasa in Taplejung, Hilsa in Humla, Kimathanka in Sankhuwasabha, Korola in Mustang and Nagcha in Mugu.

Other agreements to be signed during the PM’s visit are survey of Kerung-Kathmandu railway and preparing its detailed project report, and reconstruction of ‘Nepal-China Friendship Bridges’ at Tatopani, Sindhupalchok, and Rasuwagadhi-Kerung. The facilities were damaged in the 2015 earthquake.

Published: 20-06-2018 07:23

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