Nepal: Make China visit strategically important

Nepal: Make China visit strategically important

-Dipankar Paritosh

, Scholar Nepal

Exact1yone month after PM Oli left for New Delhi on an official visit, he is embarking on official Visit to r neighbor China at the invita1 of his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang. Given the difficult situation Nepal is facing due to friction with India, many Nepalese people expect much from Oh’s China visit. However, given the lackluster attitude of our government, not much will b achieved during the visit, despite China’s willingness to help Nepal in whatever manner and extent it can.

China is a global power which is our next door neighbor. We have 1400 kilometer common border with China and have many things in common. Nepal and China have ancient and historical relations. Nepal, in fact, has currently no issue with China but only friendship and good deal of neighborly cooperation. China has been cooperating with Nepal in its various sectors to become Nepal’s genuine development partner. Unlike some other Western countries which attach strings with their assistance to Nepal, China has no condition while assisting Nepal. Nepal’s stability and development are the only conditions and intention of China and accordingly China has been providing financial and technical support for Nepal’s development. Apart from material support, China’s moral support for Nepal is equally important which has boosted Nepal’s morale both in the domestic front as well in the international forums. Thus China’s cooperation to Nepal is multi faceted, so is the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

China is desirous to help Nepal in a long-term basis. But Beijing is cautious to enter into deal with Nepal as Kathmandu has not proved its credibility. The past tract records suggest that Nepal looks to China only when there is a problem with India. In 1989, Nepal had problem with India as New Delhi imposed trade embargo against Nepal. During that time, Nepal proposed fuel trade with China. Beijing had also agreed to supply petroleum products to Nepal. On request from Nepal, China immediately supplied some quantity of petroleum products on temporary basis and it was expecting a long term deal with Nepal on fuel trade so that Nepal will not have to depend solely on India for fuel supply. But after problem with India was resolved, Nepal soon ignored China. Beijing has learnt a lesson from this attitude of Nepal.

After India imposed blockade recently, Nepal again turned to China for the supply of petroleum products. As a genuine neighbor, China agreed to give Nepal some quantity of petrol on grant for immediate relief. However, it is now expecting to enter into a long-term agreement if Nepal wants fuel trade with China.

Thus, Nepal has the problem of credibility and long-term perspective in its relations with China. China was prepared to supply fuel during 1990s even when China itself was facing problem for fuel supply in Tibet itself. Tibet had not been directly connected with the mainland China by modern highways and rail networks at that time. But China agreed to supply fuel considering the problem of its neighbor. However, Nepal did not understand China’s goodwill.

Now Situation has changed and things have become easier than those of 1990s. China has constructed high speed railway network in Tibet directly connecting it with the mainland and this railway network is soon being extended close to Nepal border, which makes much easier for trade between Nepal and China. And Beijing is ready for the fuel trade with Nepal even now but wants it to be done on long- term basis. Nepal has to prove its credibility by entering into a long- term trade deal not only for the supply of fuel but also in all other areas and sectors.

China is a global power and it has built nationwide road and railway networks. As a land-locked country, Nepal has an opportunity to have access to sea and other countries by using China’s road and railway connectivity. It is now high time that Nepal also needs to sign a transit treaty with China so that Nepal’s dependence on India will be reduced to some extent. China has attached high importance and priority to Prime Minister Oh’s visit and Nepal needs to take optimum benefit from this. The visit should not be taken merely as a pleasure trip but a business mission for country’s strategic interests. Nepal needs to extract maximum from the generosity of China for which the Prime Minister Ol visit should be duly utilized.

Recently China has opened up a good deal of opportunities for its neighbors especially Nepal. One Belt One Road initiative China has proposed recently is a scheme to connect the world closely through road, railways and maritime networks. China plans to build such networks in South Asia, too. Nepal should be linked with this initiative so that Nepal will have more accesses and opportunity to contact and conduct trade with the rest of the world. It will help Nepal to come out of the landlocked constraints.

Fuel has become a strategic commodity in the world and India has used this weapon against Nepal more frequently. Fuel trade deal with China will reduce dependence on India and provide Nepal with strategic latitude, to a large extent. Thus, the long-term fuel trade agreement with China is a must. Similarly, Nepal has huge potentials for hydro power generation and development. But so far, market is limited as India is the only market for Nepal’s hydro power. Foreign investors often hesitate to commercially invest in Nepal’s hydro power sector in the absence of India’s willingness to buy the electricity. If India refuses to buy and or if it wants to buy on its own term, Nepal will not benefit from the energy generated from its hydro power plants.

India knows it very well and is always trying to build hydro power projects in Nepal and buy the electricity on its own term, which has discouraged hydro power development in Nepal. In view of this situation, Nepal should persuade China to jointly construct Nepal-China cross country electricity transmission line so that electricity produced in Nepal can be exported to China, too. This will not only break India’s monopoly but also attract more foreign investment in Nepal’s hydro power sector, which can boost Nepal’s economy as well. Thus, apart from other issues, long-term fuel trade agreement, road and rail connectivity and inter-country transmission line should be given more priority, about which China, too, seems to be positive. PM Oli’s visit needs to be utilized to accomplish these projects which will have long-term positive impact on Nepal’s development as well as its strategic interests. The Weekly Mirror: Ed.