Xi pledges rail and tunnel link development in Nepal
China and Nepal celebrated the “beginning of a new era” of relations on Sunday as President Xi Jinping ended his visit with hopes of a railroad and tunnel linking both countries.
Xi — on the Chinese leader’s first state visit in 23 years— pledged support of RMB 3.5 billion ($493 million) between 2020 and 2022 “to raise the living standards of Nepalese citizens” during talks with President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, the official said.
China has wooed Nepal, which rival India sees as part of its sphere of influence, with offers of growth sandwiched between the global giants in the Himalayan country.
Kathmandu also pursued closer ties and much-needed investment from Beijing in power and infrastructure.
The two countries said in a joint statement that the visit of Xi “marked the beginning of a new era of ties between Nepal and China and acted as an important milestone in the history of friendly cooperation.
During the tour, at least 15 agreements were signed by Nepali and Chinese officials, including a feasibility study for a cross-border rail project that would allow Beijing access to the south through the open border with India.
“We will build a multidimensional trans-Himalayan network of connectivity and help Nepal realize its vision of turning itself from a landlocked country into a land-linked country,” Xi said during a Saturday night banquet in his speech.
We also conducted another feasibility study to create a tunnel from China’s Kerung to Kathmandu and to restore existing highways, as well as to improve relations between hydropower, security, trade and education.
Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s foreign affairs advisor, Rajan Bhattarai, said Xi said “China is ready to help Nepal on its growth and prosperity mission with an open heart, assisting with infrastructure development and improving connectivity.
Nepali Times editor Kunda Dixit said that if China’s deals help boost the economy of the poor nation, the crucial check would be.
“The big test of whether or not Xi’s visit will benefit Nepal is whether these infrastructure projects will help make Nepal more self-reliant and use access to China to export our exports, not worsen our dependency,” he said.
In recent years, China has stepped up its operation in Nepal, pouring millions of dollars into infrastructure ranging from highways to hydropower plants.
Nepal signed up with China’s Belt and Road plan in 2017, a vast global construction program that includes constructing and improving the country’s highways and airports.