Nepal signs deal to gain access to Chinese portsIn a bid to shift away from heavy dependence on India, Nepal on Monday signed an agreement with China to use transit facilities for third country trade by using the ports of the northern neighbour.
In a bid to shift away from heavy dependence on India, Nepal on Monday signed an agreement with China to use transit facilities for third country trade by using the ports of the northern neighbour. However, poor infrastructure on the Nepali side, difficult geographical terrain and without the reach of Chinese train up to Nepali border in Kerung (Gyirong in Chinese side)—the only trading point between Nepal and China at present—Nepal may not be able to avail itself of the Chinese port facilities immediately in Tianjin.
Seamless use of Chinese facilities could start in 2020 at the earliest, when the Chinese rail network is scheduled to reach Kerung, according to officials. Tatopani, another Nepal-China trading point, that has remained closed since the April 25 earthquake is yet to open, and there is no official confirmation from the Chinese side whether it will ever open it up.
According to Reuters news agency, after a meeting between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, Hou Yanqi, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asia Division, described the rail connectivity as a “longer-term plan”.
“Of course, a further extension from Gyirong is an even longer-term plan. It’s up to geographic and technical conditions, financing ability. We believe that far in the future the two will countries be connected by rail,” she was quoted as saying.
During the meeting, PM Oli requested China to build three rail lines—-one connecting three of Nepal’s most important cities, other crossing the border from China into Nepal, and a monorail in Kathmandu.
“The government would encourage Chinese firms to look at the internal rail plan, and that China was already planning to extend the railway from the Tibetan city of Shigatse to Gyirong on the Nepal border,” she said.
Nepal has so far been conducting its third country trade through Kolkata-based Haldiya port in India. During PM Oli’s India visit last month, New Delhi agreed to make Visakhapatnam port available for Nepal’s use as well, acquiescing to an earlier request from Nepal.