Dr. KHADKA’S CHINA VISIT Balancing Act

With grants and promises, Nepal minister Khadka returns from China

Aug. 21, 2022, 11:32 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 16, No. 03, August.19,2022 (Bhadra 03. 2079) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

The timing of the recent visit of Foreign Minister Dr. Narayan Khadka to China was highly sensitive and complex. With highly tense China-U.S Relations over Taiwan, the unsettled dispute between India and China and Nepal’s own decision to endorse U.S-backed MCC cooperation against the wishes of China, managing the visit was a difficult one.

With the backing of foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal and a team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs China Division Lok Bahadur Thapa, the visit went smoothly. Dr. Khadka led an 11-member delegation to China to pay the visit at the invitation of Chinese Foreign Minister and state councilor Wang Yi.

Foreign Minister Khadka has returned a happy man from China. Beijing has offered Nepal a huge grant in return for Kathmandu’s assurances to stick to the ‘One China’ policy, the Indian Express has learned.

Upon Khadka’s return, a press release issued by Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Khadka and Yi discussed enhancing, among other things, “bilateral trade, connectivity network, health, tourism, agriculture, education”. China will also fund and provide equipment for the Covid control mechanism in Nepal, it added.

Beijing also assured Nepal it would provide 800 million RMB (118 million USD) grant for the current financial year, for projects of Kathmandu’s preference. This will be in addition to the RMB 3. 5 billion promised by Xi Jinping during his visit to Nepal in October 2019.

According to a source, China also promised to stand by Nepal “in defense of its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity unconditionally.”, sources said.

In return, Dr. Khadka, the sources cited above added, convinced the Chinese side of Nepal’s firm adherence to the ‘One China policy’ “irreversibly”. Also, on Chinese concern about West’s disproportionate presence and about the US-Nepal ties, Khadka is believed to have assured Yi that Nepal’s cooperation with Western countries, particularly the US, was for the sake of development and had no security or military component. To reassure China on this, the two countries also decide to extend their cooperation in the disaster management sector.

Nepal also assured China it will not allow any external forces to carry out activities against China on its territory, keeping Tibet's sensitivity in mind, the sources added.

Nepal’s plan last month to take part in the State Partnership Program, an exchange programme between Nepal Army and the US National Guard, was dropped at the last minute following protests at home, and reservation from China.

Also, although officials are silent about it, Nepal seems to have agreed to go ahead with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, pledging to implement previous understanding and agreements on priority.

According to media report, China and Nepal have agreed to build the Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network, the foreign ministry said, following a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries.

As part of the agreement, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China would finance the feasibility study of a China-Nepal cross-border railway and send experts to Nepal to conduct surveys this year, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson at the foreign ministry, told a regular media briefing in Beijing on Thursday.

During their meeting earlier, Wang told his Nepalese counterpart Narayan Khadka that no matter how the international and regional situation changes, China and Nepal have always firmly supported each other on issues involving core interests.

During the meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Khadka reiterated Nepal’s unwavering commitment to One China Policy and assured that the Nepali territory will not be allowed to be used for any activity against China. On the other hand, State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi reiterated China’s continued and unconditional support for Nepal’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and assured to support in Nepal’s development endeavors as per the priority of the Government of Nepal.

Foreign secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal, Secretary of Commerce Dr.Toya Narayan Gyawali and ambassador of Nepal to China Bishnu Pukar and other high level officials from Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

China also assured the Nepali delegation that the construction of the second phase of the Kathmandu Ring Road Improvement Project will start soon.

In addition, China has also pledged support to Nepal with more than 15 billion rupees in various topics including physical infrastructure, disaster management and health materials.

Foreign Ministry’s officials have shown that they can handle the diplomacy given them opportunity to manage the bilateral relations.

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