Nepali and Chinese officials to discuss border, security issues but skip GSIA foreign ministry official says there will be open and frank discussion on all topics including some disputed ones.
Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal is Beijing-bound as the head of the Nepali delegation to the 15th meeting of the Bilateral Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism. At the meeting scheduled for Friday, Paudyal and Sun Weidong, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, will lead their respective delegations.
According to Nepali officials, although China has been pushing hard for Nepal’s support for the Global Security Initiative (GSI), a new security architecture floated by China, the issue is unlikely to be discussed at the meeting.
The GSI aims to eliminate the root causes of international conflicts, improve global security governance, encourage joint international efforts to bring more stability and certainty to a volatile and changing era, and promote durable peace and development in the world, according to the concept paper released by the Chinese side on February 21.
The Nepali side has time and again has communicated to the Chinese side that it cannot be part of, or support, the GSI.
But during the meeting, two other initiatives undertaken by China—the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Global Development Initiative (GDI)—will be discussed. The meeting is taking place just ahead of the sixth anniversary of Nepal signing up to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the flagship project launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Nepal and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the BRI framework agreement in May 2017. Despite the agreement being six years old, no project under the initiative has started in Nepal.
It is unclear whether Nepal will raise China’s unilateral categorisation of the Pokhara airport as a BRI project, at the meeting.
Given that Chinese companies are pursuing multiple projects in Nepal, a mutual understanding on the BRI projects is crucial, said a finance ministry official.
Similarly, China has already launched two projects in Nepal under the GDI. The first is Nepal Smiling Children Project, for which the China Foundation for Rural Development will provide food for 3,600 children from poor communities in Kathmandu. China’s foreign aid agency, China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), Ministry of Commerce, China and the China Foundation for Rural Development, will fund the project whose details will be out soon, according to Nepali officials.
Similarly, the second project is China-led ‘Support to Schools and Communities in Remote Areas for Pandemic Prevention and Green Recovery’. It will help schools and communities in remote areas on pandemic prevention and green recovery. This particular project will be executed by CIDCA, the Ministry of Commerce, China and the United Nations Development Program.
According to the Chinese foreign ministry, CIDCA will conduct 1,000 Human Resources Training Projects covering all priority areas of the GDI and benefiting all members of the Group of Friends of the GDI, according to their needs.
Sewa Lamsal, foreign ministry spokesperson, said all aspects of bilateral relations including trade, tourism, and reviewing the progress of China-funded projects in Nepal will be discussed at the meeting.
According to another Nepali official, the two sides will also explore the possibility of high-level visits in the future.
Although Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal was invited to the Boao Forum for Asia that was held on March 28-31, he could not participate owing to his busy schedule at home.
The resumption and continuation of various bilateral mechanisms will be discussed, a foreign ministry official said, adding, “The meetings of some important mechanisms have concluded while meetings of some mechanisms are in the pipeline.”
At the meeting, officials will discuss Nepal-China development cooperation, bilateral trade and investment, tourism, cooperation under the BRI and GDI, expediting the Chinese-assisted and contracted projects in Nepal, cooperation on border posts, and supporting livelihoods in northern districts of Nepal, among other things.
Nepal’s Home Ministry has already registered its concerns, via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, over the reported encroachment of Nepali border by China in Humla district.
Nepal and China have yet to hold a meeting on the protocol related to the implementation of the trade and transit agreement signed in 2016, under which Nepal was granted access to seven Chinese ports for third-country trade.
During the meeting, the Nepali side will request a joint inspection of the boundary between Nepal and China. Such an inspection remains stalled since 2011.
During the joint consultation meeting on border affairs held virtually between the officials from Nepal and China in July 2022, the two sides agreed to activate the existing boundary mechanisms, yet they remain inoperational.
The 1963 Joint Boundary Protocol has the provision of three different mechanisms to deal with boundary issues—the Joint Inspection Team, the Joint Expert Group, and the Joint Inspection Committee. The mechanisms were enshrined in the Nepal-China Boundary Protocol signed between the two countries on January 20, 1963.
There are several reports of boundary encroachment and other issues on the northern border, but there is no official record of the latest boundary status between Nepal and China in the absence of a joint inspection.
Of late, Nepal has been raising the issue of boundary dispute in Humla with China and has been asking for a joint inspection.
At the upcoming meeting, the two countries will discuss the issue of security, especially on the northern border and cooperation between their law enforcement agencies. China has expressed support for Nepali security agencies and for improving the border infrastructure, but no understanding has been reached.
At the meeting, both sides will discuss regional and international issues and share their respective thoughts too.
“We will have open and frank discussion on all issues including some disputed ones,” said Lamsal.