KATHMANDU, May 8: The government has formally decided to be part of China's connectivity initiative known as the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.
A cabinet meeting on Monday decided to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China for the OBOR project. Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi will sign the MoU from the Nepali side and China is likely to send a special representative to Kathmandu to sign the deal at the function scheduled for Thursday.
Although Nepal agreed in principle in 2014 to join OBOR, delay on the part of successive governments had left Nepal's participation uncertain. The decision to sign the MoU comes after Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal expressed his commitment to OBOR during his China visit in March.
While the OBOR project plans to connect over 65 countries, over 40 countries have signed the MoU with China.
China has already opened an office of the OBOR Trade and Investment Platform in Nepal.
Established for now as a non-profit organization, this body acts as facilitator for links between Nepali entrepreneurs and businesspersons with their Chinese counterparts to promote investment and trade between the two countries.
Experts have lauded the government's decision to sign a formal agreement on OBOR. "This is a positive development. Nepal should not cause any further delay in signing the MoU to enhance connectivity with the northern neighbor and through it with a number of countries in Asia and Europe," said former foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya.
Acharya said Nepal should identify specific projects within OBOR that will benefit Nepal and lobby for their implementation.
The government is sending a high-level delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara to China on May 12 to participate in the first international conference on OBOR being held in Beijing on May 14 and 15. The delegation will include Minister for Physical Planning and Transport Management Ramesh Lekhak and Information and Communications Minister Surendra Karki .
Over 20 heads of state and government and high-level representatives of 50 world organizations have already confirmed their participation in the conference. Minister Mahara is scheduled to address the conference as Nepal formally becomes part of China's ambitious project.