At the invitation of Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded two-day state visit to Nepal on October 12 and 13. As the first visit by a Chinese state leader to Nepal in 23 years, it will mark a major breakthrough in bilateral relations.
The visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping is historic in many respects. First, the Chinese head of state is visiting Nepal after a hiatus of 23 years. Second, China’s stature in the world economy and political affairs has grown markedly during this period. China even did not feature in the list of top five economies 23 years ago. Currently, it is the second-largest economy trailing behind the United States and is set to become the most significant global economy in the coming decade. Third, Nepal and China need to agree in detail the financing modality and detailed plans for the implementation of the Trans Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Corridor and Nepal-China Railway Project. Both projects are part of the BRI master plan.
Nepal is an inland country with only two neighbors: China and India, two rising powers with vast potential for future economic development. Situated between the two, Nepal can naturally play a role as a bridge and bond.
Nepal has a huge trade deficit with China. Nepal has not been able to benefit from China’s decision to allow a large number of Nepali produce duty-free due to fragile manufacturing sector. Hence, China’s supports in encouraging its companies to invest in Nepal would be a welcome move. Similarly, Nepal receives an annual grant of Chinese renminbi one billion. Given Nepal’s massive trade deficit with China and the need for infrastructure development, the amount of yearly award needs to be increased at least by two folds.
It will be of great strategic significance and interest for the three neighbors – China, India and Nepal – to establish an economic corridor and build a community with a shared future. If all three work together to strengthen connectivity, the Himalayas will no longer be a barrier, but will be able to link neighbors geographically and culturally.
China, India and Nepal should give up the zero-sum mentality, replace geopolitical games with geo-economic cooperation and make full use of the geographic advantages to bring real benefits to their people.
The spring of China-Nepal cooperation has arrived. People on both sides of the Himalayas are expected to hold hands and move toward a common future.