China seeks proposals on projects under BRIChina has called on Nepal to suggest some specific projects that could be taken forward under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and sought to know other areas of cooperation.
China has called on Nepal to suggest some specific projects that could be taken forward under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and sought to know other areas of cooperation.
During the 11th meeting of the Joint Consultation Mechanism between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Nepal and China on Tuesday, senior officials dwelt on a wide range of issues and ways to initiate projects in Nepal under the BRI.
This is the first foreign secretary level meeting between the two countries after Nepal signed up to the BRI on May 12 just days before China gathered leaders from 28 countries to showcase its modern take on the old “silk road” spanning some 65 countries.
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou led the Chinese delegation in the meeting. Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi led the Nepali side.
The Chinese side is learnt to have categorically sought projects that can be undertaken under the BRI—namely cross-border connectivity, infrastructure development, diversification of Nepali trade and tourism, among others.
Officials though have described the signing of the framework agreement on the BRI itself as a milestone; some experts have dropped a word of caution and called for strong political commitment if Nepal were to reap benefits from the Chinese plan.
The BRI, also called One Belt One Road, is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s flagship project unveiled in 2013, and aims to expand links between Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond underpinned by billions of dollars in infrastructure investment. During the BRI summit held on May 14-15, Xi announced $124 billion for the initiative to what he called “forge a path of peace, inclusiveness and free trade”.
Despite an immediate invitation to join the BRI, it took Nepal years to sign up to the initiative, largely due to ambivalence on the part of Nepali leadership which often finds itself walking a tightrope when it comes to striking a balance between two neighbouring countries.
India, which has shown its reluctance to join the BRI, had skipped the May 14-15 summit. The delay on the part of Nepal to sign up to the BRI, some believe, could have been because of India’s unwillingness to become part of the initiative as New Delhi sees it as China’s growing influence over Southeast Asian countries.
Officials said Nepal by signing the framework agreement on the BRI has already turned a new page on bilateral cooperation with the northern neighbour and that the foreign secretary level meeting a month after the signing ceremony “does hold a political significance”.
“The high-level visit from China within 15 days of formation of the new government under Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba underscores Beijing’s willingness to continue—and enhance—engagements in Nepal and pursue its political, economic and trade ties with us,” said a senior Nepali official.
According to officials, Nepal will propose some projects under the BRI after consultations with the stakeholders.
The Nepali side has expressed hope that cross-border connectivity, infrastructure development, trade diversification, promotion of investment and tourism would get priority in the implementation of understanding under the BRI reached in May, a statement issued after the meeting said.