Just a few months after Nepal joined the Belt and Road Initiative, Nepal-China 11th meeting of the Diplomatic Consultation Mechanism concluded with commitments to implement the agreements signed between the two countries.
The meeting, taking place after a long gap of four years, reviewed Nepal-China relations, political relations, and the latest political developments.
The meeting also discussed Nepal-China economic cooperation, investment, trade and connectivity along with land and air route connectivity. They also proposed on tourism and socio-cultural exchanges, collaboration on areas of mutual interest in the backdrop of consolidation of the harmonious relations, and conducting regular meetings of other bilateral mechanisms.
Among others, major regional and international issues of common interest were under review in the meeting.
Led by Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuan You, the 11-member Chinese delegation discussed the matters of mutual interest with the 20-member Nepali delegation led by Foreign Ministry’s Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi.
Top officials from the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Home Ministry, Finance, Commerce, Energy, Agriculture, Supply, Physical Infrastructure and Transport including National Planning Commission, Investment Board Nepal and the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) attended the meeting.
The 10th meeting of Nepal-China Consultation Mechanism was held in Beijing in 2013.
After the meeting, China has agreed to reopen the Tatopani customs point that had remained closed since April 2015 when the earthquakes heavily damaged infrastructure on both sides of Nepal-China border.
With Nepal’s request, the Chinese side has assured Nepal that they are committed to resuming the operation of the Tatopani customs point once the reconstruction of the damaged buildings and road and protection works of the area are completed.
However, the Chinese delegation did not say when the process of reconstruction will be completed. The Chinese delegation told the Nepali side that they are investing some Rs 2 billion for the protection and reconstruction work in the area.
Chinese assurance to resume the customs point comes in the wake of speculations in Kathmandu that China was in favor of permanently closing the customs point that was opened in 1960s.
Although the Chinese side has been expeditiously working to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure on its side of the border, not much work has been done yet on the Nepali side . "We told that we are ready to put in place the infrastructure on our part. We are optimistic that the customs point will resume soon," said Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi, who led the Nepalese delegation at the meeting.
During their visits to China, the then prime ministers K P Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal had asked the Chinese side to reopen the Tatopani-Zhangmu border point. Nepal has also been raising this issue in all other meetings with the Chinese side.
The Joint Consultative Mechanism was set up in 1996 as a platform for discussing the matters of mutual concern and cooperation at the senior officials' level between the Foreign Ministries of Nepal and China. While Foreign Secretary Bairagi led a 21-member Nepali delegation, Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou led the 12-member Chinese delegation in the meeting.
The meeting discussed ways to promote trade, investment, infrastructure development and people-to-people contact and maintaining the tradition of regular exchange of high-level visits between the two countries.
"The Nepali side expressed hope that cross-border connectivity, infrastructure development, diversification of Nepal's trade, promotion of investment and tourism would receive priority in the implementation of the MoU on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative signed by the two sides on May 12, 2017," said the MoFA statement.