May 24 – Chinese Envoy to Nepal Hou Yanqi reiterated China’s commitment to building Kerung-Kathmandu railway but admitted that it was geographically challenging and economically expensive.
“The Nepal-China cross border railways can’t be constructed overnight just because there was political consensus on it. It requires extensive and multiple scientific studies before starting its construction,” envoy Hou told a press meet organised at the Chinese embassy here.
Hou’s remarks come in the wake of the inclusion of China-Nepal cross-border railway in the joint communiqué of second international Belt and Road Forum that concluded in Beijing last month.
Kerung-Kathmandu railway was a common agenda of the political parties during the three-tier elections held in 2017. It took the centrestage of development discourse following the 2015 Indian embargo. During his first premiership, Prime Minister KP Oli signed a historic trade and transit treaty with China in 2016, allowing Nepal to use Chinese sea and dry ports for the third trade route.
The Chinese envoy said that the construction of the railway involved four steps – pre-feasibility study, feasibility study, design and construction. Asked about the financial modality and costs of the much-talked about railway, she said that as of now only feasibility study had been completed and the feasibility study would commence now, which also required a huge amount of money.
She declined to talk about the costs of the railway, which she said can be estimated during the phase of design. Stating that the railway construction would take a long time and big budget, she expressed her satisfaction that Nepal side had been taking positive steps to this end.
The leaders of the two countries have reached an important consensus on jointly building the trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network.
She informed that Tatopani customs office bordering China would resume from next week and in the beginning the cargo vehicles would ferry from the Tatopani checkpoint.
On the occasion, she asked the government to allow Chinese payment Apps- WeChat and Ali-Pay- so as to enhance Nepal-China trade and commerce. Both the companies want to operate in Nepal legally, she added.
In another context, she dismissed the accusation that BRI pushed the countries into a debt trap. She she said: “As a matter of fact, no country has got trapped in a debt crisis since its participation in the BRI. Quite on the contrary, it is through participating in BRI cooperation that many countries have got out of the trap of ‘no development’.
She noted that businesses, as the main players in BRI cooperation, would naturally act according to the law of the market so that they did not end up losing money. “For most developing countries, they need funds and investments in order to achieve development. China, as other international financial institutions do, offers help in the form of funds based on equal consultation and without any additional political condition. The BRI is open, inclusive and transparent.”
The Belt and Road cooperation has depicted the picture of the times featuring win-win cooperation between China and Nepal, as well as the world.
She said that President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s state visit to China and participation in the second BRF a milestone in Nepal-China relations, with far-reaching significance.
She said that since China and Nepal signed the MOU on the BRI, the traditional friendly cooperation between China and Nepal had witnessed new historic opportunities and they stood at the historical starting point.
According to Nepal’s statistics, in the 2017/2018 fiscal year, the trade volume between the two countries was 1.767 billion U.S. dollars, up 39.6 per cent on a yearly basis. China has become Nepal’s biggest FDI country, the second largest trading partner.
China is Nepal’s biggest source of foreign tourists. In 2018, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal exceeded 150 thousand, and in the four months of this year, the number reached more than 60 thousand.
“We are willing to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Nepal in order to cooperate with the plan of Visit Nepal 2020.”