Nepal seeks long-term trade with China to escape energy crisis

BEIJING: Nepal's foreign minister asked China on Friday for help in dealing with an energy crisis that crippled the landlocked country over the past three months and China said it would look at the request favourably.

Speaking in Beijing after meeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Nepali Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa said he had asked China to consider the long-term trade in petroleum products.

The Himalayan nation, which serves as a natural buffer between China and India, adopted its first post-monarchy constitution in September hoping this would usher in peace and stability after years of conflict.

But for the last three months, protesters have blocked trucks coming in from India, leading to acute shortages of fuel and medicine. Nepal has blamed New Delhi for siding with the protesters, a charge India denies.

"I'm very happy to note the government of China has instructed the concerned petroleum export authority to be in touch and discuss issues related with the long-term trade of petroleum products with Nepal," Thapa told reporters.

Wang, standing next to Thapa, said China was willing to look at ways with Nepal to help resolve its energy problems.

Nepal had been almost totally dependent on India for overland supplies following earthquakes this year that killed nearly 9,000 people and blocked crossings from China.

China reopened a border crossing with Nepal in October and said it was using it to send in the supplies.

Old rivals India and China have used aid and investment to court Nepal for years.

"For Nepal, there is no need to play each other. We have our own type of relations with India. Similarly, we have our special relations with China. So, I think we are very happy with that and will continue in future with that, strengthening relations with both countries," Thapa said.

Wang said Nepal could become a place for win-win cooperation between China and India, rather than "a sports field for competitive games".