By Birat Anupam (KATHMANDU, 20 August) – March 21 of 2016 and May 12 of 2017 are very important historical dates in Nepal’s march towards economic sovereignty. The first date was when the then premier KP Sharma Oli signed Nepal’s first ever Transit Transport Agreement (TTA) with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang. In second date of May 12, 2017, another landmark framework agreement on China’s grand One Belt One Road (OBOR) was made. Foreign secretary Shankar Das Bairagi and Chinese Ambassador Yu Hong inked this very crucial agreement under the premiership of Puspa Kamal Dahal Prachanda.
Both TTA and OBOR are incredibly important for land-locked nation like Nepal. TTA includes points like Nepal’s access to Chinese ports like Tianjin, Guanzhou and Shanghai, China’s support to explore Nepal’s gas and oil reserves, constructing cross border transmission lines and establishing oil storage facilities in various parts of country. These kinds of economic opportunities and assistances are life-saving capsule to Nepal that has badly suffered three periodic trade embargoes imposed by southern neighbor India. TTA also holds great significance for Nepal’s third-country trade via Chinese roads and ports. Until now, Nepal is mainly dependent on Indian ports like Haldia and Visakhapatnam for freight transports and international trade and transit.
Likewise, OBOR comes as an indispensable opportunity for Nepal to update, upgrade and advance its infrastructural gap being a part of China’s giant global project supported by UN and dozens of other nations from across continents. OBOR Initiative with help Nepal to make various developmental strides in multiple fronts like roadways, railways and the likes.
Amid this rosy pictures of such historical accords with world’s apex economy and our northern neighbor China that shares more than 1400 kilometer of common border with Nepal, there are looming uncertainties in materializing these accords. Protocols are not signed so far to translate agreements into actions. When former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was ousted by splitting his coalition with Maoist Center couple of years back, both Prachanda, the then Prime Minister-In-Waiting and Deuwa, the Prachanda’s coalition partner, were vocal supporter on signing protocol on TTA with China. They said so even in parliamentary sessions. However, Prachanda has accomplished his 9-month-long tenure as Prime Minister but he didn’t bother to sign on protocols to implement TTA with China. Instead, Prachanda facilitated signing OBOR Initiative agreement with China leaving protocol signing incomplete. Protocol is final and factual document to make framework agreement practically possible.
Now, incumbent Prime Minister Sher Bahadr Deuba has got a historical opportunity to enjoy credits of signing protocols on both TTA and OBOR. Four-time Prime Minister Deuba must exercise his premiership role to ink protocols on both of these crucial nationalistic agreements with China.
Why suspicion in Deuba?
If we are to judge from Deuba’s past, he is not a Prime Minister to have good rapport with northern neighbor China. Deuba is said to have pro-Indian political and personal inclinations. This was partly the reason an Indian broadsheet daily ran a story after Deuba’s election as Nepal’s Prime Minister which was titled: ‘Indian supporter Deuba became Nepal’s new Prime Minister for the fourth time.’ Not only this, Deuba was publicly criticized by Nepalese citizens and diplomats for sharing a seat together with Lobsang Sangay, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile at a program in Goa, India, last year. It was against Nepal’s ‘One China Policy’ to share a common stage with Dalai Lama’s officials by Nepal’s former Prime Minister and president of Nepal’s largest party, Nepali Congress. Although Deuba said that was morphed picture. Central Tibetan Administration, a website of Dalai Lama’s group, confirmed Deuba’s presence with Sangay at a function title 3rd India Idea Conclave organized by India Foundation in Goa.
Deuba can prove his critic wrong
Amid such two pending protocol agreements and Deuba’s public image as pro- Indian Prime Minister, Deuba, now, can prove all his critic wrong by signing these two protocols of TTA and OBOR. This will reshape Deuba’s premiership as a successful one in maintaining equidistance between our giant neighbors China and India. Deuba can sell these signings in upcoming federal and provincial elections. Voters, these days, are not totally hijacked by various political spectrums and they have their own say based on pros and cons of any political entity. They exhibit their solid voices in ballots. The dismal performance by largest party Nepali Congress in Kathmandu’s mayoral elections is the latest example of such manifestation for Deuba’s deeds like not promoting deserving DIG Nawaraj Silwal into AIG and floating impeachment motion against popular Chief Justice Shushila Karki.
Deuba can reap such benefits in upcoming two consecutive elections by signing these protocols. Nepal desperately needs full-fledge implementation of TAA and OBOR to enjoy economic sovereignty and to progress in much-needed infrastructural backwardness. TTA and OBOR are also two available handy tools to graduate Nepal from ongoing Least Developed country (LDC) to Middle-Income Country. If protocols are signed timely, Deuba can be visible steward towards this direction.
Auther is Itahari-based journalist and freelance writer.