By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 11 September 2019) – Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi returned home on Tuesday after completing his three-day visit to Nepal. The visit remained significant as it decided to expedite projects to be funded by China and it also ensured the much-awaited visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal.
High-level visits are integral part of bilateral and intern ational relations. Wang’s visit reciprocated the visit of Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali to China on 16-21 April. Exchanges of high level visits are considered sovereign and fruitful to promote relations. There has been the visible shift in Nepal’s relations with neighbours and powerful nations since they have shown interest in Nepal. India, China and the US have proactively been engaged with Nepal and sought to ensure their meaningful presence here.
China, as a friendly country since the establishment of formal relations in 1955, is also aware of Nepal’s growing international image. This reciprocity reminds that China always stands with the Nepali side in the crucial time. China had demonstrated the real friendship with Nepal when the latter was in dire need of support at the time of Indian blockade.
However, leaders of both Nepal and India have already moved forward leaving behind their bitter past. China has been keenly watching the developments in its periphery. Minister Wang’s visit to Nepal can be interpreted as China’s growing concern in its periphery under Xi’s peripheral diplomacy.
During the visit, the two sides signed three agreements where China would support Nepal in building a hospital in Manang, provide 5,000 pieces of tents for emergencies and send volunteers to teach Chinese language in Nepal. These agreements seem comparatively of less significance as the mega projects are awaiting the endorsement of both the governments. But the good news is that the dream project of Nepal- China-Nepal cross border railway project was also discussed and Chinese Minister expressed commitment to materialising it.
Both the Ministers reviewed the past agreements and understanding and vowed further commitment to execute them with priority. Nepal and China had signed historic agreements on Transport and Transit in 2016 followed by inking of protocols in 2018 which are yet to be implemented. Both the ministers expressed that they would direct the concerned government agencies to move at a fast pace.
Despite the fact that China has prioritised Nepal in its aid to development list, the expected progress in development partnership has not been seen. The much hyped -Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) has been limited in rhetoric since Nepal formally signed it in 2017. Not a single project has been identified to be constructed under the BRI when about 100 seminars have been organised both in China and Nepal.
The most important question everybody has in mind in Nepal is- whether President Xi Jinping will visit Nepal soon. Has this visit of Wang Yi has substantially made the conducive environment for Xi’s milestone visit?
Yes, the visit has largely laid the groundwork for President Xi’s upcoming visit to Nepal. In a meeting with Prime Minister Oli on Monday evening, the Chinese President’s visit to Nepal was prominently discussed. Minister Yi said in response that China was preparing for a top level political visit to Nepal and it would happen soon.
Prime Minister Oli’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Rajan Bhattari’s comment after the meeting has confirmed that President Xi will visit Nepal soon. ”Nepal’s expectations to welcome Chinese President will be fulfilled soon,” Bhattarai quoted Wang telling Nepali PM.
There have been top level visits from Nepal to China but there has not been the reciprocal visit from China since the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Nepal in January 2012. President Bidya Devi Bhandari had formally invited President Xi to visit Nepal. Similarly, Prime Minister Oli had also reminded the invitation put forward by Nepal to President Xi during his state visit to China. Minister Gyawali had also discussed this issue with his counterpart Wang during the former’s China visit.
President Xi had planned to visit Nepal in October 2016 but the abrupt change in the government leadership led to the cancellation of much-awaited visit. Now, the right opportunity has come to welcome President Xi in Nepal at a time when Nepal has taken a course of development and prosperity following the long political transition. Nepal has a motto of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali, and it seeks international support to realise it in the spirit of the win-win cooperation and benefits.
Prime Minister Oli has been requesting the neighbours and international community to invest in Nepal and make profits and take it back their home. In fact, Nepal is a virgin territory to invest compared to other countries. In a minimum investment of global ranking, the investors can make maximum benefits.
President Xi’s visit to Nepal will simultaneously support two goals. First, the visit will come along with the enormous announcement from China which will obviously boost the Nepali economy. Secondly, the Chinese investment will disseminate the positive message to the world that Nepal has suitable environment for foreign investment.
Nepal’s first priority is to welcome President Xi. Nepali leaders should be able to convey the message that they would receive president Xi in Kathmandu with unity. As an old saying goes, foreign policy is called the extension of domestic policy. Actually foreign policy is not just the extension of domestic policy. Even if there is conflict and contraction in domestic politics, all the domestic power should have uniform stand on foreign policy, the internal conflict must not affect the conduct of foreign relations.
Therefore, the immediate need is all-party consensus and the preparation to welcome President Xi to Nepal, which will be undoubtedly milestone in bilateral relations.