A positive factor

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi flew to Myanmar after completing his three-day official visit to Nepal, which he termed ‘fruitful’. This visit, said to be his first-ever official visit to a South Asian country, has added a new dimension to Nepal-China relationship, just as the official visit to Nepal a few days ago by Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee was generally billed to have further strengthened the bilateral ties. Indeed, the past few days have seen other foreign ministers’ visits to Nepal. Heightened foreign interest in Nepal is understandable because it is still in political transition, with so much change that has already taken place, and with several important issues still outstanding.

During Yang’s visit, China agreed to provide Nepal with a grant roughly equivalent to Rs.1.2 billion. Besides, both sides agreed to enhance and upgrade bilateral relationship by expanding and strengthening mutual interactions and cooperation in diverse fields. A number of Chinese-aided projects are under way, including the 16 km Safrubesi-Rasuwagadi road that will increase connectivity between the two countries and the National Ayurveda Research and Training Centre. The two sides also agreed to promote Nepali exports to China (Nepal suffers large trade deficits with both India and China), and to boost Chinese investment in various fields in Nepal. Other topics that came up for discussion during the bilateral talks included the establishment of special economic zones and dry ports in border areas, promotion of border trade as well as tourism by adopting further necessary measures.

Minister Yang appreciated Nepal’s One-China policy and its policy of not allowing its soil to be used against China. China’s main security and strategic concern in Nepal is that effective checks must be placed on anybody wanting to foment trouble in Tibet by using Nepali territory, which is a legitimate expectation. Tibet is considered China’s ‘soft underbelly’. China and Nepal have been good neighbours, each consistently pursuing Panchasheel, including the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. Noteworthy is Yang’s expression of

Chinese commitment to extend assistance to Nepal in protecting its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity, as well as Chinese support for Nepal’s political change. Yang said China was ready to extend ‘full cooperation for the political stability and

economic development’ of Nepal. The Chinese

minister also handed to Prime Minister Prachanda an invitation from his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, to visit China next year. It is a important positive factor that friendly countries, particularly India and China, have fully supported Nepal’s change and transition, and they have also expressed their desire to provide further cooperation to bring the peace process to a logical conclusion and to help Nepal in its development endeavours. Nepal should build on this large fund of goodwill. In order to realise

Nepal’s genuine aspirations more fully, its political forces need to learn to evolve a national consensus on Nepal’s vital interests and on its common foreign policy thrusts.