PM Oli warms up to China for a Nepal-China rail link

RSTV Bureau
Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli, left, inside the Great Hall of the People Monday, March 21, 2016 in Beijing, China. Photo - PTI

Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli, left, inside the Great Hall of the People Monday, March 21, 2016 in Beijing, China.
Photo – PTI

Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who is in China for a week long visit, pitched for a strategic railway link between the two countries through Tibet to reduce land-locked Nepal’s total dependence on India.

Oli met Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday and both leaders cemented their ties by signing 10 agreements including a landmark transit trade deal which will end Nepal’s total dependency on Indian sea ports for third-country trade.

Oli’s high-profile visit comes as Nepal seeks to open more supply routes from China amid fears of a repeat of recent nearly six-month long crippling blockade when the Indian- origin Madhesis blocked Nepal’s trade-routes with India, throwing normal life out of gear.

During the talks, the two Prime Ministers made a comprehensive review of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction over steadily growing relations between the two countries.

“The two sides exchanged substantive views on further strengthening and consolidating mutual trust and understanding as well as promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields,” said a press release issued by Nepalese Foreign Ministry.

Trade diversification, cross border connectivity and infrastructure development, cooperation on energy, tourism, finance, education and culture were among the key issues that figured prominently during the talks, the release said.

During his talks with Li, Oli mooted extension of China’s strategic railway link with Tibet further to Nepal.

Hou Yanqi, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “Nepal Prime Minister wanted to explore two rail lines.”

Hou said the government would encourage Chinese firms to look at the internal rail plan and that China was already planning to extend the railway from the Tibetan city of Shigatse to Gyirong on the Nepal border.

“Of course, a further extension from Gyirong is an even long-term plan. It’s up to geographic and technical conditions, financing ability. We believe that far in the future the two countries will be connected by rail,” she added while briefing the media on the talks.

Apart from the trade deal, the two countries signed agreements on a feasibility study on the establishment of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), China’s assistance to build a new airport and a border bridge. Agreements were also signed on a treaty on economic and technical cooperation to build a Regional International Airport Project at Pokhara, Nepal’s famous tourist site.

China and Nepal also decided to initiate a feasibility study on Chinese assistance to Nepal for exploration of oil and gas resources.

Commenting on Oli’s visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying played down concerns that the closer China-Nepal ties will effect India-Nepal ties.

“China, India and Nepal form a community of shared destiny. Our work there (Nepal) can help to work for common development. Stable development in Nepal serves both China and India. We hope we can have positive interactions in this field to achieve win-win results,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Oli was given a red carpet welcome by the Chinese Premier at the Great Hall of the People. Oli also called on Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

(With inputs from PTI)