Railway could become game-changer for Nepal to get connected with rest of the world
Chinese President Xi Jinping has opened up new opportunity for South Asian people. In the nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), President Xi has choreographed his primary concerns on two major diplomatic tasks for modern China: forging a new form of international relations based on mutual respect, fairness, justice, and win-win collaboration and building a community with a shared future for the betterment of human beings. China’s neighborhood diplomacy at the moment is primarily guided by principles of sincerity, amity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness.
Nepal has supported Xi’s dream of building a community of shared future for humanity, and believes in China’s thrust on enhancing collaboration among nations under Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Following 19th Party Congress Xi has given priority to strengthening neighborhood diplomatic initiatives for peace and development in the field of security, trade and humanity.
Nepal-China relations date back to centuries. The White Pagoda Temple designed by Nepali artist Araniko during the reign of Kublai Khan, the emperor of Yuan Dynasty, still stands as an emblem of Nepal-China relations at the western part of China. In his first visit to Nepal in 1957, Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai had expressed the need of establishing people to people contact to develop the diplomatic bond between Nepal and China. Zhou had called for renovating the ties of two countries with the aim of connecting the people through the link-road mission. But it was not easy at the time because of fearsome high mountains in the north.
Nepal was an entrepot (trading center) between India and China in the ancient times. Nepal was also used in the past as an intellectual entrepot between China and central Asia. The marriage of Lichchhavi Princess Bhrikuti with Songtsan Gampo around 1400 years ago and the visit of Araniko to China were examples of people-to-people ties between the two countries. The adventurous visit of Nepali envoy Bhim Malla to Tibet in 1645 for extending Trans-Himalayan trade was another incident which reinforced the bonds between the two countries. Back then, Rasuwa and Kodari routes served as passage to China for Nepal.
Now it’s easier to strengthen trade and connectivity with China through BRI on which Nepalis have pinned high hopes. Chinese President initiated BRI in 2013 as a massive infrastructural venture of modern development connecting some 65 countries. It aims to get the support of some 100 countries and international organizations.
During their visits to China, current Prime Minister K P Oli and his predecessor Pushpa Kamal Dahal expressed commitment and support to BRI. They have agreed on developing cross-border multi-dimensional transport networks for better connectivity and shared prosperity. Railway connectivity between Nepal and China is the best option for the development and stability of Nepal.
With successful implementation of BRI, Trans-Himalayan railways and highways can become new tools for connecting Nepal with China. When Chinese bullet trains come to Kathmandu from Lhasa and then to Pokhara and Lumbini, as planned, Nepal will immensely benefit from it.
Nepal has already signed on BRI project. And the leaders of the two countries have also expressed the commitment for realizing the railway project. Thus the railway link under BRI is no longer a dream for Nepal. The railway project will bring new opportunities for China-Nepal cooperation and South Asian development. Nepal and China have established cooperation on many areas. Nepal is the founding member of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the observer member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) already.
The groundwork has been laid for establishing greater connectivity between Nepal and China. Railway could become the game-changer for Nepal to get connected with the rest of the world, apart from China. It’s up to Nepali leaders whether to tap or squander this opportunity.
The author is campus chief at Bishow Bhasha Campus, Kathmandu