No clarity on BRI projects as Nepal, China officials meetThere was no concrete discussion on GSI and GCI, Nepali officials say.
In their first high-level meeting in Beijing since the Covid pandemic, Nepali and Chinese officials discussed ways to lessen the effects of the pandemic on the economies of the two countries.
Foreign Secretary of Nepal Bharat Raj Paudyal, who is in China to participate in the 15th meeting of the Bilateral Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism, met Sun Weidong, a vice minister in China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday and discussed various dimensions of bilateral relations.
“Both sides took stock of the existing Nepal-China bilateral relations and cooperation and deliberated on the ways to further expanding and consolidating cooperation in various areas, including the exchange of bilateral visits, economic cooperation; promotion of trade, investment and tourism,” reads the statement issued after the meeting. “Building connectivity; and strengthening the cooperation in the field of agriculture, education, culture and people-to-people relations among others.”
Covid has definitely affected the economy of both the countries, and as Nepal is a small country, there was a discussion about China taking some unilateral initiatives to help Nepal’s economy, said a Nepali official who participated in the meetings.
Nepal proposed preferential treatment for Nepali primary products such as tea, coffee, herbal products, cooked buffalo meat, and other agricultural products, the statement said. “The Chinese side agreed to encourage Chinese investors to make investments in mutually beneficial areas.”
The Nepali representative also said delays in China’s infrastructure development projects undertaken in Nepal were also discussed during Friday's meeting.
A few months ago, the government of Nepal had warned the Chinese contractor firm, China State Construction Engineering Corporation Limited, over the delays in widening the Narayanghat-Butwal road and the failure to make necessary repairs.
The Department of Roads had even threatened to terminate the contract with the Chinese firm. After the warning the contractor had intensified the work.
The Nepali side claimed that the Belt and Road Initiative Framework Agreement, which Nepal and China signed in 2017, was discussed during the bilateral meeting. Even six years after Nepal signed the BRI, there has been no tangible progress on related projects. During this period, even the framework for project implementation under the initiative has not been formulated.
Bishnu Pukar Shrestha, Nepali ambassador to China, in an interview with the Post a month ago had said that Nepal had not adequately responded to Chinese inquiries on the details of the BRI projects. “But I also feel that China is reluctant to prioritize Nepal’s projects,” said Shrestha. “Due to this, we have not started discussing how much money China will invest under the BRI in Nepal and how much Nepal will invest.”
Later this year, the third BRI summit will be held in China. The second BRI summit in 2019 was attended by former Nepali President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
“All dimensions of bilateral ties were reviewed at today's meeting,” said Lok Bahadur Thapa, joint secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal.
“Instead of concentrating on a specific subject, this meeting allows discussion on bigger concerns affecting bilateral ties,” Joint Secretary Thapa told the Post.
The Nepali side also claimed that there was no concrete discussion on the Global Security Initiative (GSI) and Global Civilisation Initiative (GCI) at the meeting.
The framework of GSI has just come out while GCI was launched a few days ago. Nepal is yet to properly study either initiative and as such they were not discussed in the bilateral meeting.
The framework of GSI, which was announced in April 2022 during the Boao Forum for Asia, was released on February 21. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the GCI concept at the World Leaders Summit held on March 15.
Although there was no specific discussion about GCI and GSI, the Nepali side said they discussed the Global Development Initiative (GDI).
Nepal currently has two programmes running under the Global Development Initiative (GDI), which was introduced by Chinese President Xi in 2021.
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 soon be out, 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 Programme.
During the Nepal visit last March of former Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi—who has now been promoted to the director of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Foreign Affairs Commission Office of China—both sides had decided to jointly inspect the Nepal-China border to inspect cases of alleged border encroachment.
Former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba had set up a working group to examine the Nepal-China border issue. “If there are any border issues between the two countries, both the parties are willing to resolve them,” said a Nepali representative present in the bilateral meeting.
The 15th round of the meeting took place almost after a year. The 14th session of the Bilateral Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism was held virtually on May 25, 2022 where Nepal was represented by Foreign Secretary Poudyal while Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao represented China.
Similarly, Foreign Secretary Paudyal also met with China's new foreign minister, Qin Gang, on Thursday. After Qin assumed the office as foreign minister at the end of last year, Foreign Secretary Paudyal is the first Nepali high ranking official to meet him.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin said the relations between the two countries had reached a new height following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2019 Nepal visit. Qin also reassured the Nepali side that China will implement the agreement reached during President Xi’s Nepal visit.
“During the meeting, matters related to strengthening the longstanding bilateral relations and cooperation between Nepal and China including the exchange of visits, development corporations, trade, investment and tourism were discussed,” reads the statement released by the Nepali side on Thursday.
There are numerous mechanisms between China and Nepal. One is the Joint Consultative Mechanism between China and Nepal, which is overseen by the Vice Minister of China's Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Secretary of Nepal. The whole range of bilateral ties are discussed in this forum.