Editorial: Landmark visit

China has expressed firm commitment to help Nepal become ‘land-linked’ through greater connectivity

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who paid a two-day state visit to Nepal at the invitation of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, has said Nepal will no longer remain ‘land-locked’, but will become a ‘land-linked’ country through better connectivity network with the northern neighbour. He is the first Chinese president to visit Nepal after a hiatus of 23 years. The last Chinese president to visit Nepal was Jiang Zemin, in December 1996. Under the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network (THMCN), which is the Nepali version of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Nepal is a member, President Xi said feasibility study of the trans-Himalayan railway would start shortly. China will also be supporting the construction of a tunnel road and upgrading the Araniko Highway, which was shut down after the devastating 2015 earthquake. Other roads linking Nepal with China’s Tibet will also be upgraded. According to officials from both the sides, all the Chinese-funded projects will be coordinated under the THMCN. Nepal has so far not been able to reap benefits from the seven Chinese ports (three land ports and four seaports) and the protocol to the transit and transport agreement due to the poor condition of roads in Nepal.

At the end of Xi’s visit, both the countries signed as many as 20 agreements to further enhance the bilateral relations that have remained cordial since both sides established diplomatic relations in 1955. The list of agreements include, among others, boundary management system; MoU on cooperation on governance capacity building; treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters; MoU on Sagarmatha protection cooperation; MoU on promoting key projects of investment and cooperation on productive capacity; MoU on feasibility study of China-Nepal cross-border railway project; MoU regarding cooperation in disaster risk reduction and emergency response; protocol for the export of citrus fruits from Nepal; MoU on the establishment of a joint working group of trade; MoU on the establishment of an investment cooperation working group; and MoU on tunnels’ construction cooperation.

President Xi’s visit has helped cement the age-old and problem-free ties between the two countries. Better connectivity with China is expected to boost Nepal’s trade with China and East Asia. Xi’s visit is a landmark in that China has expressed firm commitment to help Nepal become a land-linked country. The hearty welcome accorded to President Xi by both the Nepal government and the Nepali people is an affirmation of our goodwill for China and its people and Nepal’s unequivocal support of the one-China policy that has remained unchanged despite changes in the political system in the country. With China showing great commitment to our development endeavours, it is only right that we do regular follow-up on the agreements reached between the two countries. At his banquet speech on Saturday, President Xi drew Nepal’s attention towards timely implementation of the projects identified by both the sides. We must take his statement seriously. His pledge to upgrade Nepal’s northern entry points to develop multi-connectivity shows just how much importance China attaches to Nepal.

Preventable mishaps

With millions of people travelling on roads that are in poor condition during festival time, an accident is inevitable, especially when a poorly maintained vehicle is also carrying passengers beyond its capacity. A major bus accident in Sindhupalchowk to the northeast of Kathmandu Friday morning took the lives of 11 people and left 101 injured when the bus turned turtle. The bus had fallen 60 metres from the road after the brakes failed. The first thing that comes to mind is, how could a bus with a seating capacity for 40 or 50 be carrying 113 passengers, with more than half of them on the rooftop?

The accident could have been largely prevented, or at least fewer people would have suffered in the incident were it not for the greed of the bus driver. There is a tendency to cram as many passengers as possible in vehicles, especially during festival time, taking advantage of the hapless people who must reach their destination on time. A little vigilance by the traffic police on the highways could go a long way in preventing such accidents caused by overloading. With so many accidents taking place on the roads year after year, travelling is becoming a nightmare in Nepal.