Nepal | August 12, 2020

PM’s China call: Nepal likely to pledge on OBOR

Lekhanath Pandey
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Kathmandu, March 20

Nepal will express verbal commitment to China’s flagship One Belt One Road initiative during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to Beijing this week.

However, a formal agreement on OBOR won’t happen this time because of a lack of ‘homework’ and the absence of the Chinese premier when PM Dahal visits Beijing, officials said.

Leading a dozen delegates, Prime Minister Dahal is all set to embark on a week-long official visit  to the northern neighbour on March 23. He will return home via Lhasa, on March 29.

The PM will first make a sojourn of Boao of Hainan province where he will address the Boao Forum for the Asia annual conference before flying to Beijing on March 25.

He is set to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 26, according to an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will be away on a visit to Australia and New Zealand from March 26 to 29 and Dahal will not be able to meet him.

Ambassador of Nepal to China Leela Mani Paudyal told The Himalayan Times over telephone that a formal deal was less likely to happen during this visit as PM Dahal wouldn’t find his counterpart in Beijing to ‘sign or witness’ it.

The PM’s entourages include his wife Sita Dahal, Foreign Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi and senior officials from the Office of the Prime Minister and the MoFA.

A signature initiative of President Xi himself, OBOR aims to enhance connectivity and cooperation among countries, primarily between China and the rest of Asia and Europe through land as well as maritime routes.

The Chinese side wants Nepal to become one of its active partners. Beijing had sent a draft proposal on OBOR to Nepal late last year. After a month-long consultation and with some revision, the Nepali side sent back the draft to Beijing.

The PM’s political Adviser Chakrapani Khanal said that learning the Indian side’s view would be better as OBOR has multiple projects connecting many countries. “OBOR is very much on the PM’s agenda and we are quite positive about it,” Khanal added. “But a formal deal might not happen as we need to consider which area of OBOR we are going focusing on and how.”

Besides, the deals and understanding reached between the two sides during erstwhile PM KP Sharma Oli’s visit to China in last March would also be taken up, reviewed and reiterated during this visit, according to the PM’s foreign relations Adviser Rishi Raj Adhikari.

Then, the two countries had sealed a number of agreements on using the northern neighbour’s sea port facility, building a regional international airport in Pokhara and exploring the possibilities of signing a bilateral free trade agreement and finding oil and gas reserves in Nepal.

A version of this article appears in print on March 21, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.

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