Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is set to visit China next month much to India’s dislike. By visiting China first, the new Nepalese Premier will ignore the usual practice of visiting India first.
“PM Oli will visit China in the beginning of the New Year 2016 during which many agreements will be signed,” Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa said.
Oli will be visiting China to formalise the agreement to import fuel from China, said Thapa, who returned to Kathmandu after concluding a week-long visit to China.
China has come to Nepal’s rescue at a time when the current low in Indo-Nepal ties over the Madhesi issue has virtually triggered an economic blockade in the Himalayan country. China has agreed to grant Nepal 1.4 million litres of fuel worth 10 million yuan to meet its emergency needs.
Earlier too in October, China provided 1.3 million litres of petrol to Nepal to cope with the severe fuel crisis at Indo-Nepal border points.
Nepal has already signed a MoU with Petro China to import all kinds of fuel, ending Indian Oil Corporation’s long-held monopoly on the Nepalese fuel market. So far, Nepal had been buying over USD 1.3 billion of gasoline from Indian Oil annually.
Not just the oil pact, Thapa said his visit to China strengthened bilateral ties between the two countries and also prepared a long-term framework for economic ties.
Tax, transport and prices for “long-term fuel trade” will soon be decided, said Thapa.
Nepal and China also forged consensus to promote open and free trade, augment the transit treaty and increase investment, he added.
A consensus on gradually resuming the 9 border points with China was also formed in the meeting between Thapa and the Chinese leaders. Road and air connectivity and infrastructure development in Nepal was also discussed, with special focus on China’s plan to expand its railway up to the Nepal-China border. It is said that the preliminary work of railway expansion is expected to begin soon.
Nepal’s increasing proximity to China is a constant source of worry for India. With the MEA in India maintaining that they have nothing to do with the economic blockade, Nepal continues to look to China instead of India.
The ongoing Madhesi blockade in Nepal is over the newly drafted Constitution. Madhesis, who share strong cultural and family bonds with Indians, have imposed a general strike in several parts of South Nepal, causing a shortage of fuel and other essential goods.
Madhesi leaders are protesting since August 2014 over the “discriminatory” nature of the new Constitution. They have now submitted 11 demands to the Nepal government. Their demands included re-demarcation of the provinces, fixing of electoral constituencies on the basis of population and proportional representation, among other things.
(With inputs from PTI)