BEIJING, March 30: Despite concerns to the contrary in Nepal, Chinese foreign policy experts see Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's seven-day visit to China as a positive development in bilateral relations and in strengthening economic cooperation between the two neighbors.
Though no formal agreements were reached on One Belt One Road, cross-border railway links or other bilateral issues during Prime Minister Dahal's visit, they say the visit has tried to send out the message that the current government is willing to give continuity to the understandings reached in the past for improving bilateral economic cooperation.
Hu Shisheng, South Asia expert at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Prime Minister Dahal wants to show that no matter which party is in power, bilateral relations between the two countries will move forward. “In this regard, the visit is very constructive and also sends out a very positive message,” he added.
He said the prime minister has spoken highly of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, improving connectivity between the two countries and encouraging Chinese investment in Nepal, which is a good gesture. “So, in my view, his visit has definitely helped further strengthen bilateral relations,” he reiterated.
He opined that the Chinese side doesn't blame the current government for not implementing the documents signed by the previous government.
“In terms of implementing the understandings and agreements reached by the last government, the current government is facing lots of problems like how to implement the new constitution, how to carry forward the elections and how to demarcate provinces. Even post-earthquake reconstruction has not been the top priority of the current government,” he said, adding, “In this regard, I think the agreements and understandings reached with China will be carried forward once the problems are settled within the framework of the new constitution.”
He said that if Nepal becomes part of OBOR, constructing railway linkages, transit facilities and even the terms and conditions of a future free trade agreement can be naturally carried forward, which will mean implementation of the agreements and understandings reached in the past.
Wang Dehua, head of the Institute for South and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Municipal Center for International Studies, said the prime minister's visit has strengthened bilateral relations as he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and pledged to be part of OBOR, and the president also said China is ready to support Nepal in extending railway linkages and boosting trade and connectivity.
“I don't think Prachanda [Dahal] is more pro-India. He has tried to maintain neutral policy. His visit is helpful for our economic cooperation especially under OBOR and also the China-Nepal-India economic corridor,” he said.
Similarly, Liu Zongyi of the Centre of Global Economy and Southasian Studies at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies said the prime minister has tried to pursue bilateral economic cooperation.
He believes that when Dahal came to power for the second time, he changed his previous stance. "If Xi had visited Nepal at that time, it would be meaningless,” he added.
He said that if Nepal shifts its policy with China, it will be very difficult for Chinese companies to go to Nepal for cooperative projects.
He said that Nepal and China should actively increase economic cooperation and this can be instrumental in luring India to participate in trilateral economic cooperation.
“Repeated meetings between Xi and the PM have improved [realtions] a lot. Meeting him in India improved the trust. But how the next government led by Nepali Congress will maintain stability will be a main thing,” he added.