China expresses interest in ‘exploring trilateral cooperation’China has neither confirmed nor denied that a discussion on trilateral cooperation between China, Nepal and India took place on Saturday in Goa on the sidelines of the Brics Summit—an issue that has generated tremendous interests and speculations after photos of a joint meeting between Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerged on Saturday evening.
China has neither confirmed nor denied that a discussion on trilateral cooperation between China, Nepal and India took place on Saturday in Goa on the sidelines of the Brics Summit—an issue that has generated tremendous interests and speculations after photos of a joint meeting between Nepali Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi emerged on Saturday evening.
But a Chinese foreign ministry official did express Beijing’s interest in “exploring cooperation between the three countries”.
Responding to a question from a journalist in Beijing during a regular press briefing on Monday, Spokesperson Hua Chunying underscored China’s conviction that trilateral partnership would be good for regional stability and development and spoke of Beijing’s interest in exploring such a partnership.
'Nepal and India are China’s friendly neighbours. We believe that positive interactions of the three pairs of bilateral relations will promote economic and social development of the three countries'
“Nepal and India are China’s friendly neighbours. We believe that positive interactions of the three pairs of bilateral relations will not only promote economic and social development of the three countries, but also contribute to regional stability and development,” said Chunying. “We would like to explore how to enhance trilateral cooperation with India and Nepal so as to advance common development of the three countries.”
This comes in the wake of Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup’s assertion on Sunday that the three leaders’ meeting was not a trilateral event.
“It was just entirely coincidental that… in the leaders’ lounge, all three were present at the same time. The bilateral between Nepal and China had already ended, so I don’t know on what basis people are calling it a trilateral and all that. It is perfectly normal in a multilateral setting for leaders to be together in a lounge on the sidelines somewhere else. So I don’t think you need to read too much into that,” Swarup had said on Sunday.
The Chinese spokesperson’s statement on Monday made no direct reference to the meeting of the three leaders, only to offer that cooperation between all three countries will be good for the region’s stability and development.
Giving a detailed response, though not directly responding on the content of the “trilateral meeting”, the Chinese spokesperson reiterated issues discussed between Xi and Dahal during their bilateral meeting.
“Nepal regards China as its reliable partner for development, stands ready to develop the bilateral partnership in a more comprehensive way, plays a positive role in the connectivity projects under the framework of the Belt and Road and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. Nepal will enhance its coordination and cooperation with China in regional and international organisations,” Chunying said.
Nepali officials also have repeated Indian line on the meeting, saying it was a “chance and happy accident”.
PM Dahal on Monday told reporters that the three leaders held discussion for 15 minutes in the lounge and dwelt on how much the three countries have in common.
“I put forward the idea of trilateral strategic cooperation and partnership among three countries. Both leaders described the proposal as positive,” Dahal told reporters on Monday.
Since 2009, Nepali officials have floated the idea of a trilateral partnership between the three countries. The issue was prominently raised during Dahal’s first
tenure as the prime minister in 2008-09. While the Chinese side is said to have responded positively to the proposal since the beginning, New Delhi had viewed it with suspicion, refusing to entertain the idea.