Nepal donors’ meet: India, China and global powers want to take lead in reconstruction


Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, Economic Times Bureau, New Delhi June 13:

A donors’ meeting that Nepal has planned for June 25 is expected to see global powers as well as regional majors India and China jostling to take a lead in the reconstruction of the quake-hit Himalayan nation. The rebuilding is estimated to cost billions of dollars and take many years to complete.

India, with its geographical proximity, socio-cultural and historical linkages with the eastern neighbour, would want to be a key player in the rebuilding efforts. Any laxity on its part will give China a bigger role in the process and increase its influence on Kathmandu, something that would be discomforting for New Delhi.

In fact, diplomatic experts said, Beijing treats this as an opportunity to make stronger alliances in the region in the periphery of India. Whether its Premier attends the June 25 meeting or not, China wants to be key player in reconstructing a country where it has made significant investments in infrastructure sector and made attempts to woo local lawmakers, they said.

Western countries are looking for a pie of the reconstruction work for their agencies and NGOs. While tourists from the West always found the mountainous country an attractive destination, their governments started taking additional interest in the Himalayan state since the days of Maoist insurgency. They are also wary about Beijing’s increasing global influence.

The donor’s meeting is expected to see nations committing financial support to rebuild Nepal. Western countries are looking for a pie of the reconstruction work for their agencies and NGOs. While tourists from the West always found the mountainous country an attractive destination, their governments started taking additional interest in the Himalayan state since the days of Maoist insurgency. They are also wary about Beijing’s increasing global influence.

The donor’s meeting is expected to see nations committing financial support to rebuild Nepal. Thousands were killed and millions lost their homes in a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the country on April 25, followed by another major tremor days later. The reconstruction is expected to cost $7 billion (Rs 44,800 crore) and Nepal’s finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat said it would take at least five years to complete.

Asian Development Bank, World Bank and UN agencies will be involved in this task, he said.

So far, Nepal has found it difficult to raise funds. Foreign aid has been slow and less than $150 million has come so far. The top donors were the US, UK, India, China, Thailand, ADB, Australia, Switzerland, EU and the UN.

So far, Nepal has found it difficult to raise funds. Foreign aid has been slow and less than $150 million has come so far. The top donors were the US, UK, India, China, Thailand, ADB, Australia, Switzerland, EU and the UN.

Amid this power play is Nepal’s own ambition to assert itself and showcase its own capabilities to the international community by deciding to host a major global meet sidestepping suggestions from countries like Japan to organise a conference in August-September.

Japan not only has the wherewithal to announce big financial support for the reconstruction, but also has post-quake rehabilitation expertise that very few can match. Nevertheless, Japan is deputing one minister of state and another vice minister for the June 25 meeting. Tokyo and New Delhi, close political allies, are also holding consultations among themselves to organise the second edition of the donors meet, official sources indicated to ET.

The country needs support to build government buildings, houses, roads and other infrastructure. The Nepalese government is studying the funding requirement — a report is expected to be ready by June 15 — and its request for international assistance at the donors’ meet will be based on the findings of the study.

Meanwhile, Nepal’s decision to go ahead with the meeting when it is still limping to normalcy didn’t go unnoticed in world capitals. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has shown his commitment to Nepal’s uplift, has said that New Delhi respected Kathmandu’s decision. There had earlier been criticism in some quarters that India was using its quake-relief work in Nepal as a public relations exercise to brighten the government’s image. But Nepal says it values India’s support and the Sushil Koirala government in Kathmandu is going all out to have Modi as a special guest at the June 25 meeting.

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