KATHMANDU, Feb 27: China has strongly objected to the remarks of a visiting senior US Defense Department official that projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Nepal and elsewhere are primarily aimed at serving the interests of China, calling the remarks 'irresponsible' and 'fabricated rumors.'
US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for South and Southeast Asia Joseph H. Felter had remarked that BRI projects should serve the interests of Nepal and not just China. Chinese ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi on Tuesday termed the remark an attempt to harm cooperation between Nepal and China, which in recent years was on an upward trajectory.
Citing the examples of Maldives, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, Deputy Assistant Secretary Felter had told a group of journalists on Monday that the projects under BRI were not necessarily in the interest of the host countries and had put them under a huge debt burden. He had pointed out the need on the part of China to improve its transparency in the quality of the investments made under BRI.
Speaking to journalists after addressing the inauguration ceremony of an International Conference on Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) in the capital on Tuesday, the Chinese ambassador said the “fabricated rumors” about BRI were aimed at harming bilateral relations between Nepal and China.
“This morning's newspapers Kathmandu Post, Republica and some other newspapers broadcast report of US defense official just visiting Nepal again and again to speak about some of fabricated rumors of the Belt and Road Initiative. I think they do not like even China and Nepal have good relations. I do not know what is their hidden agenda?” she said.
Arguing that China is a good partner in the development of Nepal, the envoy expressed confidence that the government and people of Nepal won't subscribe to such rumors put out by the US official about BRI projects. “… if they want to help this great country, please invest in this country, but do not spread rumor against other country. We are a partner to help this country,” she said.
The envoy also clarified that it was not China but Nepal that selects projects to be implemented under BRI . “We are also discussing about new projects. All these new projects are determined by Nepal, not determined from China. Some of the reports said the projects will only be in the interest of China. That is quite ridiculous,” the envoy further said, adding that projects requested by the Nepalese side are selected on the basis of the needs and priority set out by the Nepal government.
Envoy Hou maintained that it was not good for a country thousands of miles away to comment about relations between two immediate neighbors. “We have shared common mountains and rivers. We are the neighbors. But some of the countries far away from this region, they only speak something, but never do something. But what we are doing is better for our neighbor or our friends,” she said.
Issuing a strongly-worded press statement Tuesday evening, the Chinese embassy here said “some irresponsible comments on China-Nepal Belt Initiative cooperation by the US official make them surprised and confused, and that these remarks are unpopular and have no market.” “If a country cannot provide help for developing countries, should at least refrain from obstructing others from assisting these developing countries, even less hurting the benefits of these people to serve its own political needs and sowing discords,” the embassy said in the statement.
The embassy also alleged that the US had played up the so-called issue of non-transparency of China's investment and increasing the debt burdens through BRI to serve its “political needs.” “It attempts to interfere [in] the friendly cooperation between China and Nepal which is very ridiculous,” it further said in the statement.