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China eyes road through Himalayas

Beijing: China proposed an India-Nepal-China economic corridor with multi-dimensional connectivity through the Himalayas as it seeks to expand its influence over the new Nepalese government headed by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, widely regarded as pro-Beijing.

China’s proposal came after visiting Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

“Let me say China and Nepal have agreed on long term vision of a multi-dimensional cross Himalaya connectivity network,” Mr Wang told a joint press briefing along with Mr Gyawali after their talks.

The Chinese proposal follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer to Nepal, earlier this month, on a cross-border electric rail link between Kathmandu and Raxaul in Bihar, connecting Nepal to the Indian railway system, and a separate river transport system that could give Nepal a route all the way to the sea.

Gyawali is on his maiden visit to Beijing after the Oli-led government came to power in recent elections.

Reacting to a question whether Mr Gyawali’s visit to China was aimed at counterbalancing the recent visit by Mr Oli to India, Mr Wang sought to make out a case for trilateral cooperation between India, China and Nepal.

“China, Nepal and India are natural friends and partners. We are neighbours connected by rivers and mountains. This is a fact that cannot be changed by whatever changes taking place in the world and inside the
three countries,” Wang said.

“Support for Nepal’s development should be a common understanding between China and India. As two major emerging economies, China and India shall deliver the benefits to their neighbours Nepal included in their own development,” he said.

Wang said China and Nepal have already signed a MoU on China’s multi-billion-dollar belt and road initiative (BRI) with focus on connectivity cooperation.
It included a long-term vision such as connectivity network and covering the links between the two countries though ports, railways, highways, aviation, power and communications.

“We believe that such a well-developed connectivity network can also create conditions for an economic corridor connecting China, Nepal and India,” Mr Wang said.

“We hope that such cooperation will contribute development and prosperity for all the three countries,” he said.

“Nepal on its part should leverage its geographical advantage and connect China and India for greater development.

Nepal stands as a natural beneficiary from cooperation from China and India. I think this is a logical desire that should be supported by China and India,” he said.

The pro-active initiatives by China came as Mr Oli, who is widely regarded as pro-China, during his last tenure as Prime Minister signed a transit treaty with Beijing in 2016 ending the decades-long dependence on India for commodity and energy supplies for his land locked country.

He also sought railway connectivity between the two countries through Tibet which China is currently building.