Cabinet okays eight deals for Dahal's China visitPacts on agro-industrial parks, cultural cooperation, north-south corridors and transmission line on the cards.
A Cabinet meeting on Friday evening cleared agreements, understanding and some memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to be signed during the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal to China beginning September 22.
At the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Dahal is going to China where he will visit Hangzhou, Beijing, and Chongqing and will return via Tibet.
According to two ministers, at least seven to eight agreements, understandings and memoranda of understanding will be signed during Dahal’s visit while bilateral discussions will be held on issues spanning across trade, commerce, energy cooperation, infrastructure, tourism, and boundary.
The two sides will sign agreements on establishing some agro-industrial parks, cooperation in agricultural sectors like fisheries and livestock, cultural cooperation, construction of north-south corridor roads besides a cross-border transmission line.
According to ministers, agreements will be signed for the construction of the Tokha-Chhahare tunnel project, two agro-industrial parks including one in Gorkha, use of Chinese technology in the education sector, construction of Rasuwa-Kerung cross border transmission line besides some other memoranda of understanding, which are currently under discussion with the Chinese side and have yet to be finalized.
Foreign Minister NP Saud, Minister for Physical Infrastructure and Transportation Prakash Jwala and Minister for Water Supply Mahendra Ray Yadav will accompany the prime minister to China, the ministers said.
There are going to be no agreements on key issues like cross-border energy cooperation and signing of the implementation plan of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), yet they are a part of the agenda for discussions during Dahal’s visit. Similarly, Dahal will request China to fund a BRI-project through a grant, but the minister declined to name the project.
The prime minister will make requests and take up several issues and matters including writing off the loans of the Pokhara International Airport and five Chinese planes.
Execution of past agreements and accords will also be discussed during the prime minister’s meeting with top Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping, Premier Li and other provincial leaders as well as the senior leaders of the Communist Party of China.
The Chinese side has thus far refused to write off both the loans—the ones related to the Pokhara International airport and five Chinese-made aircraft. Nevertheless, the Nepali side will take up the matter with the Chinese, said one minister.
The Pokhara International Airport has failed to do desirable business and the government is now seeking a write off of the loan taken from China’s EXIM Bank. The five aircraft that were purchased from China lie grounded in Nepal. After failing to generate any income, successive governments mulled various options on what to do with the grounded Chinese aircraft.
Though the Chinese are not positive about writing off two loans that together come to around Rs30 billion, the prime minister will push for their write-offs, the ministers added.
The cabinet also decided to give an ‘approval in principle’ to the prime minister for any other agreements that may be signed, pending approval by the government after his return.
“After attending the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, I will leave for China’s Hangzhou from New York,” said Dahal while addressing Parliament to inform about his upcoming visits to the United Nations General Assembly and China.
“Nepal and China have shared long, cordial, and closed relations for centuries, and in recent years, these relations have become multidimensional and also deepened. China has become Nepal’s development partner and is helping Nepal in its overall developmental endeavors,” he added.
As prime minister, this would be Dahal’s third visit to China. Earlier he had gone in 2008 and 2017.
“This visit will further strengthen bilateral relations,” said Dahal. “Both sides are planning to sign a slew of agreements during the visit, and both sides have completed their homework.”
In Hangzhou, Dahal will meet Chinese President Xi where he will also attend the opening ceremony of the 19th Asian Games. Dahal has an invitation to attend the opening ceremony of games.
On September 25, he will meet Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Beijing, where the two leaders will hold delegation-level talks to be followed by the signing of some agreements and MoUs.
After completing his engagements in Beijing, Dahal will visit Chongqing City which has made tremendous progress in areas like agriculture and technology in a very short time. Dahal will visit the Chongqing Academy of Agricultural Sciences and other institutes too, as per his itinerary.
“After completing the visit in Chongqing, we will leave for Tibet with which Nepal shares a long border. There, we will meet senior Chinese government officials. Then we will return to Kathmandu,” said Dahal.
“The visit at the prime minister’s level is taking place after the Covid-19 pandemic which will not only strengthen the bilateral ties between Nepal and China,” he added. “We will also discuss Chinese cooperation and assistance in areas like Nepal’s infrastructure development, agriculture, energy, tourism, health and education.”
The prime minister further said: “Nepal will seek to reopen Nepal-China border points that were shut after the Covid pandemic, mainly the more traditional trading points, among others. After the great earthquakes in 2015 and the Covid-19 pandemic that began in early 2020, several border points between Nepal and China were either shut down or opened partially.”
“In the capacity of prime minister of Nepal, it is my belief that my visit will strengthen and deepen the traditional, friendly relations with China where we will also seek further avenues of bilateral cooperation,” said Dahal.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers have made suggestions to the prime minister on his upcoming China visit. “The prime minister should talk about implementing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” said CPN-UML lawmaker Raghuji Pant. Although Nepal and China had signed the BRI framework agreement in 2017, its progress has been dismal.
“As per the agreement between Nepal and China, the prime minister should take up the matter and hold talks,” said Pant, who also advised Dahal to discuss electricity export from Nepal to China.
“If we sell electricity only to India, it will put pressure on us. We have to build a transmission line with China, so that we can sell electricity to China too. The prime minister should talk about opening three or four border points with China,” said Pant.
Ram Hari Khatiwada of the Nepali Congress said Nepal should maintain good relations with both its neighbours. “The nature of our relations with India and China are different but both are our neighbours,” said Khatiwada. “The prime minister should not hold talks that will undermine the country's nationality, territorial integrity, sovereignty and he should clearly put forth Nepal’s position on territory and the new map.”
During the visit, the prime minister will discuss cross-border connectivity, trade and transit.