By Pradeep Gyawali (12 September 2018) – Let me begin by thanking the Tribhuvan University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences for bringing out such a pertinent topic Belt and Road Initiative: Opportunities and Implications for Nepal and the Region for deliberation.
I have immense pleasure to speak a few words as valedictory remarks in this enlightened gathering. As the program has come to an end after extensive deliberations on the topic among the experts from Bangladesh, India, Laos, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand, we have already heard thoughtful remarks and summary as well by distinguished experts on country specific perspectives on BRI and its opportunities and implications.
The Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Nepal K P Sharma Oli has already shed light on the theme of today’s Conference in his inaugural speech this morning. You might have got the opportunity understand Nepal’s perspectives on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). I would like to put my brief remarks on the same topic. This may sound repetitive.
‘The Trans-Himalayan Silk Road’ and ‘The Tea Horse Trail’ dating back to millennia were ancient routes of great influence. Nepal was a lynchpin in that ancient Silk Road. The trans-Himalayan routes had immense influence on the life of a vast stretch of land extending from present-day western China, Central China to Turkmenistan, Bamiyan (Afghanistan), Mongolia, Nepal, Bangladesh (Chittagong), Sri Lanka, and India (from Kolkata to Kashmir).
The large-scale trade and cultural exchanges between South Western China and South Asia since ancient times contributed not just to cross-border trade and commerce but also to cross-civilizational exchanges and cross-fertilization of ideas across the continents.
In view of these historical facts, we have welcomed the BRI, a landmark initiative taken by the President of the People’s Republic of China, His Excellency Xi Jinping with the aim of ‘building a community of a shared destiny’ and greater cooperation among nations. We visualize great opportunity to work together with China in this broad mission for peace, prosperity and harmony.
China has made unprecedented strides in socio-economic and technological developments. It has improved significantly the quality of life of its people. Its willingness to share the fruits of development with neighbouring countries for mutual benefits through the BRI is commendable. In view of historical linkages between Nepal and China as well as considering the present day reality between the two countries, Nepal has joined the BRI last year.
As you are aware, after the consolidation of political gains, we, in Nepal, have embarked on the journey of socio-economic transformation. Our vision is guided by the goal of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.”
In order to achieve this overarching goal, we need, among other things, to develop physical infrastructures within the country and enhance cross-border connectivity with both of our neighbours.
Connectivity within the country and across the borders is very important for development. This is also a prerequisite for regional cooperation. As Nepal enjoys excellent bilateral relations with both from neighbours, India and China, which have emerged as global economic powers, we would like to take advantage from their progress and prosperity.
Our development needs are many but resources at our disposal are limited. We hope that BRI could help meet our financial needs for project development.
Recently, during the visit of the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Nepal to China, our two countries agreed to intensify the implementation of bilateral MoU on BRI to enhance connectivity encompassing such vital components as ports, highways, railways, aviation and communication under the overarching framework of trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
Under this framework, our two countries have already started cooperation for cross-border railway project. Development of cross-border railways between Nepal and China is a priority for the Government of Nepal along with other connectivity related infrastructure. Whereas cross-border optical fibre link between Nepal and China has already come into operation since early this year.
We have recently finalized the text of Protocol to the Agreement on Transit Transport signed between Nepal and China in 2016. This will enable us to get access to the East Asian sea via Chinese territory. Being an LDC, this is an important aspect of diversifying Nepal’s access to sea for its transit transport. We want to transform our country from a land-locked to a land-linked one.
We have similar cross-border connectivity with India in the forms of highways, railways, info-ways and pipeline. We hope these initiatives would be milestones in linking the South Asia with south western part of China via Nepal in the future.
Thus, connectivity has become one of the important foreign policy priorities of Nepal.
We think that the projects related to BRI should aim at utilizing the rich resources available along the Himalayan range, and improving the quality of lives of peoples in those areas. The facilities and infrastructures thus created will not only raise the standards of living of the people, but also support the conservation efforts and help for sustainable development of that region.
Most important thing is that, contrary to perceptions in certain quarters, we will be guided by our enlightened national interest to select and implement projects.
We also believe that the concept of trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network comprising the components of railways, highways, ports, aviation and communication linkages across the Himalayas would be significant for opening up new vistas of economic engagements in multiple areas and supporting for the livelihood of peoples in the region. For advancing cooperation under the trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, we need more understanding, collaboration and partnership.
Nepal has abundant natural resource endowments, whereas Chinese enterprises have technological and financial resources for investment. We need to work assiduously to synergize from these vast potentials for development projects in the coming days.
BRI is not just about physical connectivity. People to people exchange is also a vital component of BRI. Tourism is an area where China and Nepal both can benefit through greater cooperation. Developing tourism services would be a promising area to forge bilateral collaboration for win-win cooperation since Nepal is endowed with natural beauty, cultural diversity and unique adventure sites.
Co-operation and exchanges among academic institutions, think tank, research institutes and intellectuals between Nepal and China are equally important in order to sharing experiences and harmonizing the learning process between the two countries. It is a matter of satisfaction that regular exchange of visits and interactions are taking place between the universities and think tanks of Nepal and China.
Nepal and China have been enjoying excellent bilateral relations for over a period of six decades. In fact, our contacts are quite old dating back to millennia. Our enhanced partnership in economic field will match the trust and understanding we enjoy in our political relationship. The BRI offers such a unique opportunity for us to cooperate and collaborate for common benefit.
I believe the conference has been able to achieve the outcomes as anticipated. I also believe that the compilation of views shared by experts will be useful for all of us.
Once again, I appreciate and thank the coordinator and team of the Master’s Programme in International Relations and Diplomacy, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences for arranging such a wonderful program on contemporary issue and for inviting us.
Thank you for your kind attention!
– This is Valedictory Address o f Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in International Conference on Belt and Road Initiative: Opportunities and Implications for Nepal and the Region organized by Master’s Program in International Relations and Diplomacy (MIRD), Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Tribhuvan University (12 September 2018,)