Kathmandu, October 12
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who arrived in Kathmandu today to a grand welcome, set the tone of his two-day state visit at his banquet speech, expressing commitment to help turn land-locked Nepal into a ‘land-linked country’ by boosting connectivity between the two countries.
A feasibility study of trans-Himalayan railway will start immediately and China will support construction of Kerung-Kathmandu tunnel road, Xi said in his speech. He also pledged to upgrade the Arniko Highway linking Kathmandu with Tatopani transit point — effectively shut down after the 2015 earthquakes — and open more customs points facilitating connectivity.
Xi also said he would encourage more Chinese people to visit Nepal to help make Visit Nepal 2020 a success.
Xi arrived in Kathmandu this evening at the invitation of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, who received him at Tribhuvan International Airport.
Among others present to welcome Xi were Vice-President Nanda Bahadur Pun, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, ministers and high-ranking government officials.
Bhandari and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali reached the aircraft — Air China’s Boeing 747-8 jumbo jet — with bouquets as Xi disembarked the plane onto a red carpet laid out at the airport.
Xi, the first Chinese president to visit Nepal in 23 years, was accorded a 21-gun salute before he inspected the Guard of Honour with Bhandari, followed by handshakes with Pun and Oli.
The aircraft, which flew from the Indian city of Chennai, landed at TIA at around 4:45 pm. Xi disembarked the jet at around 5:10pm.
Xi is accompanied by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Communist Party of China’s Political Bureau Member and Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi and the CPC International Liaison Department head Song Tao.
At the airport, ethnic dances were showcased to welcome Xi. From the airport, Xi was driven to Hotel Soaltee, his residence for the next 20 hours where key engagements, including delegation level talks, will be held.
Government employees, athletes and artistes were organised in large numbers at various intersections to welcome him. Government employees had gathered from new Baneshwor to Maitighar Mandala, while sportspersons were stationed at Tripureshwor. Performers donning ethnic attires were present all along Xi’s route from airport to the hotel, passing through Tinkune, Maitighar, Thapathali, Tripureshwor and Kalimati.
Roads through which Xi’s motorcade will pass for the next 20 hours have been freshly black-topped, potholes filled and cleaned. Portraits of Xi and Bhandari have been placed on electric poles along the roads, while welcome gates have been erected on several locations along the route.
Large flex prints have been placed beside roads to cover eyesores, and Tinkune ground has undergone facelift with plantation of small trees and flowers. Oli inspected the route this morning to make sure preparations were up to the mark.
After resting in the hotel for a while, Xi began his Kathmandu engagements, meeting Bhandari at her official residence at Sheetal Niwas this evening. He also met Leader of the Opposition and President of Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba at Hotel Soaltee this evening. After the meetings, Xi attended state banquet organised in his honour by Bhandari at the same hotel.
Tomorrow, Xi will meet Nepal Communist Party Co-chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the morning, before holding delegation-level bilateral talks with Oli. After the bilateral talks scheduled for 10:30 am, the two leaders will witness signing of bilateral agreements and MoUs.
Some of the pacts on the cards include concluding detailed project report of the proposed Kathmandu-Kerung railway, upgradation of Araniko Highway and Kathmandu-Rasuwagadi road, setting up Madan Bhandari Technical University and hydropower projects.
Other proposed pacts include construction/upgradation of northsouth corridors. The proposed corridors include Koshi Corridor highway to Kimathanka, Kali Gandaki Corridor to Korala and Karnali Corridor to Hilsa. Other agreements include building Madan Bhandari University, tunnel road and Tokha-Chahare Tunnel.
Government officials said the talks would mainly be centred around Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network under the China-led Belt and Road Initiative to which Nepal is a signatory.
A version of this article appears in print on October 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.