BEIJING, May 16: A day after China agreed in principle to provide financial support to Nepal for construction of a cross-border railway link that would connect Kerung with Kathmandu, Pokhara and Lumbini, the government of both the countries on Monday designated focal persons for expediting the process to kick-start the project.
Minister for Physical Transportation and Infrastructure Ramesh Lekhak, who is in China with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Krishna Bahadur Mahara, said that the director general of the Department of Railways of China, Yang Yudong, has been appointed as the focal person from the Chinese side while Nepalese Ambassador to China Leela Mani Paudyal has been appointed as focal person from the Nepali side to follow up and facilitate all the preparations required to materialize the cross-border railway link at the earliest.
On Monday, Minister Lekhak held a meeting with Chinese Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng in Beijing.
“The meeting was very positive. Chinese Transport Minister Li committed that the Chinese side will provide all kind of support for the construction of the cross-border railway link and also designated director general of the railways department of China as the focal person saying that we should begin all the necessary preparations right from tomorrow.
Afterward, I also informed him that our ambassador will be the focal person from our side,” said Lekhak.
He said that the two sides appointed the focal persons to complete all the necessary preparations to reach formal agreement between Nepal and China for the cross-border railway link as soon as possible and move forward for implementation.
He said that designating focal persons from both sides is a major breakthrough for enhancing connectivity between the two neighbors.
“Chinese Minister Li said that since Nepal has already signed an agreement to be a part of China’s ambitious project Belt and Road Initiative, the cross-border railway and road connectivity should be viewed as part of the initiative and both sides should work closely to initiate construction without further delay,” Minister Lekhak said, adding, “And I have also assured him that the government of Nepal will work closely with the Chinese side and make efforts to reach agreements on infrastructure projects that would strengthen physical connectivity.”
“Chinese Minister Li also assured that his government will support Nepal in strengthening the capacity of its engineers,” he added.
In the meeting, Minsiter Lekhak also informed Chinese Minister Li about Nepal’s plan to build East-West Electric Railway, a railway line connecting Mechi and Mahakali, and a tunnel and flyover in the capital, among other mega projects and requested for China’s support.
“He has responded positively to our plans. He has assured us to help in materializing the plans and asked us to come up with proposals on the mega projects soon,” he added.
Minister Lekhak added that the Chinese minister also assured to help in upgrading the Rasuwagadhi-Syaphrubeshi road section soon. On Sunday, Nepal and China had signed Memorandums of Understanding on upgrading the road section from single lane to a two-lane road.
“The Chinese side is also ready to reopen the Tatopani border point and also explore and develop other commercial transit points between the two countries,” he added.
According to him, the two ministers have agreed to initiate preparations to establish cross-border economic zones in line with the MoUs on Cross Border Economic Zones.
On Sunday, DPM Mahara had held meeting with Chinese Vice-premier Wang Yang and also discussed about construction of the railway link between the two countries and other physical infrastructure. With the end of the belt and road forum, the Nepali delegation is returning back home Tuesday.