By Leela Mani Paudyal —The age-old relations between Nepal and China have continued to go from strength to strength after the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1955. These time-tested relations are marked by profound friendship, deep understanding and appreciation of each other’s aspirations and sensitivities. Nepal highly values its relations with China as a trusted all-weather friend. Our relations have continued to flourish despite major political changes in Nepal and in the global arena. China’s support for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal without interfering in its internal affairs is a special feature of Nepal-China relations. In response, Nepal abides by its commitment to the one-China policy, which is also an integral part of our foreign policy.
The past five years have seen a remarkable expansion and deepening of relations between Nepal and China on many fronts. More than 35 important high level visits between the two countries have taken place in those five years. Over two dozen agreements were signed during the period, including the Transport and Transit Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding on joint implementation of the Belt and Road initiative.
Currently, more than 5,000 students are studying Chinese language at the Confucius Institute at Kathmandu University, and around 200 Nepali students are studying Chinese language in several universities across China. Five years back, these numbers were insignificant. Such cooperation is expected to help enhance Nepal’s technical capabilities, and contribute to the country’s socio-economic progress.
Tourism and investment are two potential areas for win-win cooperation between Nepal and China. Nepal offers unparalleled opportunities for tourists to enjoy natural beauty and cultural traditions. China is the largest source of outbound tourists with the highest per capita expenditures. China is the second largest source country in terms of tourist arrivals in Nepal since 2014. China has declared 2017 as Nepal Tourism Promotion Year in China.
Similarly, Nepal has historically served as an important lynchpin in connecting South Asia with Central and East Asia. Today, the Silk Road Initiative can play a vital role in revitalizing the trade routes in the region. Nepal has abundant natural resources, whereas Chinese enterprises have the technological knowhow and financial resources for investments. Under the Belt and Road initiative, Chinese investors may utilize the investment opportunities in Nepal for mutual benefit. In 2016, China occupied the top position in terms of the inflow of foreign direct investment in Nepal. China’s grant assistance has made it one of the largest of the development partners supporting Nepal, and has increased manifold in the past five years.
Nepal and China are both countries with high incidences of earthquake and flood-related disasters. Therefore, there is great scope for mutual cooperation between the two countries in disaster preparedness, relief and reconstruction. Following the earthquakes of 2015, China was one of the most significant providers of support for Nepal.
The Belt and Road initiative proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping four years ago is an epoch-making proposal that has injected hope for inclusive development with a view to creating a harmonious society. Nepal has signed an MoU for joint development of BRI for common prosperity and regional stability. There is enormous future potential for trade and investments between China and South Asia. The Himalayan passes at the Nepal-China border have served as important gateways for travelers between China and South Asia for centuries. The time is ripe to revive the ancient glory acquired from exchanges between China and South Asia, and Nepal stands ready to offer its support for integration toward common prosperity.
The development of infrastructure along the trans-Himalayan region is crucial for promoting economic opportunities to ensure efficient movement of people and goods across the region. Regional cooperation and understanding is required to optimize the benefits of trans-Himalayan connectivity. Nepal and China should focus their cooperation arrangement on building critical railway infrastructure in the Himalayan region and remove barriers for a seamless movement of people, goods and services.
(This article was originally published in China’s The Global Times on October 20, 2017. The author is currently Nepalese Ambassador to China.)