Tatopani border opens for one-way cross-border movement of goods from China to NepalThere’s no certainty yet when Rasuwagadhi border point will be opened for trade with the northern neighbour, as Nepal is under lockdown to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Despite the government’s decision to reopen both border points with China –Rasuwagadhi and Tatopani–for the cross-border movement of goods, the northern neighbour has agreed to open the Tatopani border only for now.
On March 25, the high-level coordination committee for the prevention and control of Covid-19, headed by Defense Minister Ishwar Pokharel, had decided to reopen the two Chinese border points to ensure supply of essential goods including medicines and medical equipment from the northern neighbour.
Both border points have remained closed since late January to prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus which was first detected in Wuhan of Hubei province of China in late late 2019.
In a letter sent by the Chinese embassy in Nepal to the government through the Foreign Ministry on April 2, it has suggested that it could open the Tatopani-Khasa border for the cross-border movement of goods.
“To promote China-Nepal Friendship, the Chinese side will continue to assist Nepali side to import the supplies of medical logistics in need of preventing and controlling the epidemic and the items of daily necessity in one-way direction through Zhangmu (Tatopani) border point to Nepal,” states the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Post.
The embassy has also asked if Nepal’s Foreign Ministry could coordinate the authority concerned of Nepali government to facilitate the clearance of cargos, avoid the stockpiles of cargos stuck at the border point and manage and control personal movement at the border point.
Nawaraj Dhakal, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, confirmed receiving the embassy letter.
He, however, said that the letter does not mean that the Rasuwagadhi border point would permanently remain closed for bilateral trade.
“Maybe they [the Chinese] do not consider it appropriate to open both border points with Nepal when the country is under lockdown,” Dhakal told the Post. “Our policy is to open all border points but they have suggested reopening Tatopani border point by preparing a certain protocol to avoid the Covid-19 spread risk.”
On Wednesday, Nepal received medical goods from China in the first delivery through the reopened Tatopani border.
Rajkumar Paudel, chairman of Bhotekoshi Rural Municipality, said the border point was reopened after establishing health desks on both sides of the border.
"A three-point agreement was reached with the concerned administration, customs office, people's representatives and security personnel to open the border points," said Paudel. "The health desk, which will soon be upgraded to meet the World Health Organization’s guidelines, was examined by health workers," Paudel said. "Only food and medical items will be brought for now."
The consignment was disinfected and sealed before it was allowed to cross into Nepal, said Paudel.
According to Lal Bahadur Khatri, chief customs officer at Tatopani customs, a private company, BM Trading, brought 7,500 pieces of N-95 masks and around 300 litres of sanitizers.
Khatri, however, said other traders have not come up with the plan to import goods from China.
The 2015 earthquakes had massively destroyed roads to Tatopani and infrastructure at the border point and since then it had remained unoperational, forcing almost all traders to conduct trade with China via Rasuwagadhi border point.
The Tatopani border was reopened in May last year and bilateral trade had slowly started to pick up pace through this point.
During the first eight months of the current fiscal year, bilateral trade through Tatopani border stood at Rs5 billion while the trade through Rasuwagadhi stood at Rs27 billion, according to the Department of Customs.
Anish Tiwari contributed reporting from Sindhupalchok.