Prepare first

Thanks to the burgeoning Sino-India economic ties, Nepal now has a good opportunity to maximise gains by serving as a “bridge” between her two giant neighbours. This was one of the highlights of King Gyanendra’s speech at the second South summit in Doha of G-77 nations. The monarch said that he “envisions Nepal as a transit economy” between India and China, the two fastest growing and the largest markets in the world. The bilateral trade between the two countries was worth approximately at $13.6 billion in 2004, and is expected to reach $17 billion in 2005. Experts claim that though India and China have opened its economy, this figure is minuscule as it is expected to climb to almost $30 billion by the end of this decade.

If all turns out right between these two great nations, there is no doubt that Nepal can hugely benefit from their emergent closeness. As a transit country, the impact will also befall on Nepal’s social sector, thereby helping in generating employment and developing the service sector such as education, health and insurance. More importantly, Nepal’s competitive products like carpets, Pashmina and handicrafts will get greater access to the foreign markets. As of today, Nepal is largely India-dependent for import and export of goods. But the passage will provide a unique opportunity to reach out not only to China but also further to Central Asia. Therefore, the benefit of any understanding can have far-reaching consequences for the Nepali people.

It is clear that such an advance thinking on the part of the policy-makers at home can help Nepal tremendously later on. However, any progressive and challenging idea towards this goal presupposes a lot of things. All business ventures and deals require peace and stability based on infrastructure founded on a solid base. Without this it is not only foolish, but also impossible to dream of being a beneficiary in the context of expanded Sino-India trade relations. This means that planning has to start now. Only with the right approach and weighing of the merits as against demerits, Nepal will be able to maximise benefits of upcoming transactions between India and China. For this, it is imperative that the authorities concerned make the nation their focal point and not themselves, as is usually the case in Nepal.