Tuesday, 23 July, 2024

Xi’s Visit Deepens Nepal-China Ties

Madan Regmi


High level official visits are not only desirable but also necessary in the development and consolidation of relations between brotherly and friendly countries, particularly the neighbours. Nepal and China, two close and reliable friends and neighbours, have maintained excellent relations despite ups and downs in their domestic system of governance. They have remained committed to abiding by the five principles of peaceful coexistence—important being non-interference in the internal affairs of each other. China has remained Nepal’s best friend and neighbour regardless of her political changes and economic ups and downs. Chinese people love the Nepali people and consider themselves as an all-weather friend always coming to their aid at all times. Nepal is fortunate to have great China—an important permanent member of the Security Council, second highest economic power, with over one billion plus 350 million people on its side.
Nepal was clamouring for a highest level Chinese official visit for reassurance and support that China-Nepal relations are as excellent today as in the days of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai followed by Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin. However, it could not happen earlier owing to a variety of reasons, mostly lack of political stability in Nepal for the past 20 years or so. Changes of the government every year during 1997-2005, followed by national political transformation from constitutional monarchy to federal democratic republic and the subsequent implementation of the new constitution confronted several hardships and lack of understanding between the ruling parties and their oppositions. Owing to this very fact and in spite of uncertainty, Chinese Premier Wen Ziabao took a short trip to Nepal as a token of everlasting friendship between Nepal and China in 2012. Nevertheless, Nepal China relations proceeded robustly and it got the much-needed boost with the assumption of Presidency by Xi Jinping in 2013. President Xi charted a clear path for China and its neighbours—called shared destiny for a common future. Xi Jinping thought—socialism with Chinese characteristics, together with Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its elements such as AIIB-- is bound to strengthen the effect and impact of the thought.
In the Nepali context, the top national leaders have understood the gravity of the thought, particularly linked with prosperity (Prosperous Nepal Happy Nepali), good governance through party discipline, and care for people, which were reiterated by President Xi during his Nepal visit. The impetus on connectivity, particularly regional connectivity—China-India, China-Nepal-- was high on the Chinese President’s agenda. Xinhua reports that Xi’s trip will open up “new space for strengthening regional connectivity and economic and trade cooperation”. Apart from accelerating programmes and projects agreed during the visit of Nepal’s President to China in 2018, the northern neighbour also offered support equal to Rs. 56 billion for various programmes.
President Xi backed Nepal’s dream to become a land-linked country, which has many ramifications. China-Nepal-India economic corridor is clearly on the board for India’s understanding. Kerung-Rasuagadhi connectivity is an integral part of this project. Other smaller road connectivity projects were discussed and many agreements were signed.
Chinese President said categorically that the time had come to upgrade Nepal-China bilateral relations from a comprehensive partnership to strategic partnership of cooperation. This upgrading was in the making ever since China announced neighbours first policy and later cemented it by shared destiny for future cooperation through the BRI.
Most importantly, the joint statement released at the end of President Xi Jinping’s visit contains several important commitments borne out of understanding and trouble-free bilateral relations between China and Nepal. The first section stressing on “characterised by equality, harmonious coexistence, ever-lasting friendship and comprehensive cooperation” is reiteration of the conduct of five principles of coexistence. Even more important consideration is contained in the second section where the two neighbours have “agreed to respect each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and respect and accommodate each other’s concerns and core interests”.
In addition, China’s firm support to Nepal in upholding the country’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity provides the necessary commitment coming from a permanent member of the Security Council to a relatively smaller but an independent and sovereign nation. The Joint Implementation Mechanism created for Nepal-China cooperation in energy sector, sharing of experience on integrated development including resettlement of scattered population in the region reflects the breadth and width of Nepal China cooperation.
Signing of agreement between the two countries on boundary management system would help secure Nepal’s national security and management required to support Nepal’s commitment to China. The Joint Statement went further to support an isolated event “Visit Nepal Year 2020” at the request of the government of Nepal. Opening of new consulates, cooperation in the International forums for safeguarding common interests and promoting collaboration on regional issues are some more agendas that got space in the joint statement.
It is thus clear that Nepal got more than it expected for from China, most of all upgrading of relationship to a higher level of strategic partnership of cooperation, that itself is the harbinger of many things to come in the future for mutual benefits.

(Regmi is the chairman of China Study Centre)