Kathmandu, March 21
Nepal and China today ‘principally agreed’ to construct a trans-Himalayan railway network via Tibet and extend it to Kathmandu.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli raised the issue of connecting two countries through rail-link with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang during their bilateral talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Leading a jumbo delegation of senior ministers, bureaucrats and representatives from the business sector, the prime minister had reached Beijing for an eight-day visit of the northern neighbour yesterday.
A Nepali official accompanying Oli told The Himalayan Times that the Chinese PM “responded positively” to the proposal and even agreed to conduct a joint feasibility study at an early date. The issue of cross-border rail link, however, has not figured in the 10-point agreement that was signed between the two sides following the Oli-Li meeting.
The two prime ministers witnessed the signing of deals that include agreement on transit facility, construction of a bridge at Hilsa in bordering Humla district and construction a regional airport in Pokhara as well as exploring gas and oil resources in Nepal with Chinese aid.
According to sources, PM Oli proposed two kinds of railway projects. One is within Nepali soil connecting different cities and the second is the cross-Himalayan railway and sought Chinese technical and financial support to realise these projects.
It is learnt that Chinese Premier Li recalled that rail links from Lhasa to Shigatse has already been completed and it was being extended further up to Gyirong, near the Tibetan border with Nepal. The Chinese side also stated that extending it towards Nepali territory was not a problem.
A statement issued later by the Prime Minister’s Press Adviser Pramod Dahal also stated that the two sides agreed in principle to extend the Tibetan railway service towards Nepal and it would be mentioned in a joint statement to be issued on Wednesday.
The two sides also agreed in principle to import fuel from China to Nepal, according to the statement. An official, however, told this daily that this was no more than a recall of the earlier framework agreement between the two countries.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Oli also called on Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People and discussed how to strengthen the centuries of bilateral cordial relations. The two leaders also exchanged views on the situation following the promulgation of the new constitution in Nepal.
A version of this article appears in print on March 22, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.