Tuesday, 28 May, 2024

Wang’s Visit Deepens Friendly Ties

Wang’s Visit Deepens Friendly Ties

Narayan Upadhyay

The recent Kathmandu sojourn of Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi brings to fore the inedible fact: The Chinese government retains the smaller Himalayan neighbour in her stronger reckoning. The three-day stopover saw the Chinese Minister interacting with our President, the Prime Minister, ministers, the chairpersons of CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre while the visiting high-level delegation signed a 9-point deal with the host nation.

This was the first visit by a senior Chinese leader after Nepal's parliament ratified the much-debated Millennium Challenges Corporation Nepal compact. However, Wang and his delegation focussed on talks and understandings to enhance bilateral relations and expedite cooperation that will add a new dimension to existing friendly relations between the two close neighbours.

Cross-border railway
By bypassing all reservations related to MCC ratification and then surprising many by not delving into the BRI either, the visiting delegation signed agreements to extend China's assistance to Nepal for a feasibility study of the inter-country railway project, Arniko Highway maintenance, and cooperation in the railway sector. Nepal agreed to supply Nepali grass to China, while China admitted to conduct a duty-free transaction of 98 per cent of Chinese goods in Nepal, arrange 4 million doses of Sinovac vaccines to Nepal and send a team of Chinese health professionals to BP Koirala Cancer Hospital.

Many believed no serious dialogue on several BRI projects took place because the Nepali side was circumspect to take the BRI negotiations forward as the Chinese help under this initiative was loan-based while the MCC compact is pure grant assistance. Likewise, the Chinese team wanted to have a comprehensive dialogue with Nepal on the BRI modalities before signing a consequential agreement with Nepal.

Despite all the qualms over the MCC endorsement and BRI projects, the Chinese Foreign Minister's official visit and the subsequent signing of agreements indicated China could not afford to snub its smaller neighbour over a bilateral issue such as the MCC compact. What is worth noting is that China expressed happiness over the MCC compact’s endorsement, citing that Nepal, a sovereign nation, merited to accept or deny any grant or loans from any nation as they fall into the domain of bilateral understanding and cooperation. This further proves that China does not want to see its age-old friendly ties with Nepal getting eclipsed by any compact or political issues.

According to analysts, China regards Nepal as a key country, strategically important to her. The northern neighbour intends to maintain a genuine partnership by extending need-based assistance to Nepal. When Nepal suffered through the economic blockade by India in 2015, China was quick to ease the Nepalis' pain by sending necessary goods and opening more supply routes to offset the detriments of the economic blockade. Soon after Nepal signed a trade and transit treaty with China, that was one reason that forced our southern neighbour to lift the crippling blockade. Chinese support in the aftermath of the Gorkha Earthquake proved wonderful in healing the Nepali wound.

Interactions between Foreign Minister Wang and the Nepali dignitaries that included our President, the PM, his counterpart, and different political party chairs, highlighted Nepal-China strong ties. During his meetings, Wang expressed that China would assist Nepal in taking up development goals as per its national situation. For this, the Chinese government would encourage all concerned parties to hold inclusive dialogues for achieving political stability, promoting economic developments, and a favourable model of good governance.

Wang stressed China's unwavering support and respect for Nepal's sovereignty and independence. China further supports the idea of maintaining territorial integrity in the region. The northern neighbour believes in the idea that Nepali people should make their own decisions on matters related to their country. China always denounces and condemns any attempt by external forces to interfere in Nepal's internal matters, to destabilise national sovereignty and to play any geopolitical game with a smaller neighbour in the region. He expressed Nepal should be a model example of cooperation between China and South Asia. Our diplomatic and cordial ties with other nations have made the Chinese Foreign Minister and his nation happier and satisfied. Expressing satisfaction over existing progress made on BRI projects, China said it would help Nepal become a significant partner in the BRI cooperation.

His expressions have made it clearer that China accords special significance to its close ties with Nepal, a vital component in China's geopolitics. Nepal has enjoyed close contact and cordial ties with China because the country understands China’s strategic geopolitical situation and needs that requires Nepal to have a trustworthy and amicable affair with its powerful immediate neighbour. Such a relationship with China as well as India is essential for her own well-being.

While dealing with China, the Nepali side must not forget that her relationship with the world's rising economic and military power is based on mutual trust. China always seeks a guarantee that Nepal must not allow inimical elements to abuse its soil to carry out anti-China activities. Nepal has done so, which has earned the northern neighbour’s praises. Likewise, the smaller Himalayan country has stuck to One China Policy, adhering to its time-tested stance regarding the Chinese Taipei, the autonomous region of Tibet and Hong Kong as parts of China.

Geopolitical sensitivity
Also true is the fact that the Nepali establishment has always abhorred the idea of playing an anti-China card over her geopolitical sensitivities. All this shows that Nepal too has accorded the highest priority to her ties with China ever since both countries formalised their relationship in August 1955.

The close contact between the two nations dates back to ancient times, however, amicable affairs between the two nations deepened after establishing a diplomatic link in 1955. Since then, the exchange of visits from the highest government and political levels has taken place. Presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, ministers, political leaders, party functionaries, media persons, students, business communities, technical and cultural experts and common citizens from both countries have visited two nations that have only deepened the cordial relationship, both at the government-to-government and at the people-to-people levels.

The three-day sojourn of State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang has indeed added a feather in the cap of two nations' cordial ties, marked by mutual trust and cooperation that subsisted from time immemorial.

(Upadhyay is managing editor at TRN. nara.upadhyay@gmail.com)