It’s official: No deals will be signed with Beijing during PM’s visit to ChinaMinister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat said on Wednesday that no pacts or understandings will be signed with Beijing during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to China starting Thursday.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Prakash Sharan Mahat said on Wednesday that no pacts or understandings will be signed with Beijing during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s visit to China starting Thursday.
“Some crucial bilateral issues, however, will be discussed,” Mahat said while announcing PM Dahal’s weeklong visit to the northern neighbour, the first since Dahal came to power for a second time in August last year.
According to Mahat, the government has prepared some memorandums of understanding, but due to “some technical reasons”, PM Dahal will not be signing any pacts during the visit.
“The government is fully committed to implementing the past pacts reached with China,” added Mahat as he tried to dispel criticisms that the Dahal government has failed to take forward any of the agreements signed during then prime minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to Beijing in March last year. “We have completed all the groundwork on our part; we hope the deals reached in the past will be signed in near future.”
Earlier there were expectations that Dahal’s visit could pave the way for Nepal’s participation in “One Road One Belt” initiative (OBOR), China’s landmark programme to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe. Similarly, there were talks about signing of a protocol on the Transit Transportation Agreement (TTA), which would allow Nepal to use Chinese ports and land routes for third-country trade, and Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
On OBOR, Minister Mahat said, “Nepal and China have discussed it at length and the benefits we can reap from it.” “But we cannot agree on free trade with China as the Nepali side is still considering its merits and demerits,” added Mahat who is accompanying Dahal to China. “Our export volume is too low and import so huge, so we need more study. We should move forward as per our requirements and interest.” On rail Nepal-China rail networks, Mahat said: “Reaching agreements and getting the rails running on tracks in reality are two different things.”
After his engagements at the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province, Dahal will fly to Beijing where he will hold a meeting with Chinese President Xi on Monday.
“Since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will not be available in Beijing during the prime minister’s visit, agreements on other five issues which we have prepared will also not be signed,” said Mahat.
Building cross-border transmission line, allowing Chinese companies to conduct detailed project reports of railway networks connecting Nepal-China border to southern plains and Pokhara via Kathmandu, harnessing Chinese investment in Nepal on various sectors and establishing a cross-border economic zone are some issues Nepal was working on for signing with China during the visit.
Since no pacts will be signed, the visit is being seen as PM Dahal’s pleasure trip, with observers even describing it as the prime minister’s bid to allay concerns that he is more tilted towards India, as an article on China’s Global Times published on March 20 said: Given Dahal’s pro-India foreign policy, the Sino-Nepali relationship has fallen into low ebb.
But Mahat on Wednesday said that the Dahal government “is opting for silent diplomacy”. “Our interest and wellbeing should be at the centre as we look to address other’s concerns. There shouldn’t be any tussle while fulfilling the interest of both sides,” said Mahat, stopping short of going into specifics of the geo-political sensitivity that the government is weighing on the issue.
“This visit, however, will lay the ground for some important bilateral issues,” he said.