Nepal wants to develop cordial and friendly relations not only with India and China but also with all other countries in the world, including the US, on the basis of mutual benefits, Foreign Minister Narayan Prakash Saud has said.
Saud, who accompanied Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' during his just concluded visit to China, told PTI in an interview that the two sides have agreed to re-activate the joint border committee formed long ago to resolve the boundary issues.
"Some people say that the (Nepal) government is tilted towards China, others say that we are tilted towards India, and some others even say that we are tilted towards the US. Basically, Nepal wants to develop cordial and friendly relations not only with the two big neighbours but also with all other countries in the world including the USA," Saud said while responding to a series of questions. "We want to develop relations with other countries on the basis of mutual benefits. For example, we have relations with India in diverse areas such as trade, transit, economy, culture and so on.
In the same manner, China being one of our important neighbours we also do have the same kind of relations with it," he said. Prachanda, who politically distanced from the pro-China Communist Party of Nepal (UML) headed by KP Oli after becoming Prime Minister in December last year, made his maiden visit to China last month after visiting India and the US, a trip aimed at maintaining a balance in ties with both the neighbours - China and India. The 68-year-old Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (CPN-MC) leader visited India in June as his first foreign trip after assuming office for the third time. Saud termed the Prime Minister's China visit "successful", saying this visit has taken forward the traditional friendly and cordial relations existing between the two countries."
"Our northern neighbour China is an emerging economic power in the world. So far as our connectivity in the northern border is concerned there are some regular entry points and some other entry points that need to be upgraded. There are also some traditional entry points between the two countries. We have agreed to open all these entry points," he said. "Similarly, we have also agreed to construct power transmission lines during the talks. For instance an agreement was reached to construct a 220 MW capacity Ratmate power transmission line on the Nepalese side. We have also agreed to move forward those projects which were agreed in the past and those under construction," he said.
Nepal and China have also agreed to collaborate in the agriculture sector. Saud said the two countries have also agreed to reactivate the Nepal-China joint border committee formed long ago to resolve border-related issues.
"We should not judge our visits to China or India only in terms of outcomes. It should not be seen only from the view point of giving something and receiving something. This visit being a regular one is aimed at nurturing the age-old bilateral ties. After the formation of the new government, we visited India and this visit needs to be seen from the same perspective. "However, we have discussed some important issues such as enhancing bilateral trade, constructing transmission lines and development of infrastructure, opening the Chhahare-Tokha entry point, effective management of the border and so on. These are some of the key achievements of the visit," he said. On the implementation of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he said Nepal has already given approval to the BRI project in principle in 2017. "However, we are discussing the modalities for its implementation. That will move forward in an appropriate time. In the joint statement too, we have expressed our commitment to move forward the implementation of BRI." On the trade deficit, Saud said, "it is difficult for Nepal to compete with China."
"However, China has been providing some concessions. We have received waiver in customs duty on around 70 items from China for export purposes...There is a huge market in China for agricultural products and livestock. We have also asked China to make investments in Nepal so that goods produced from the joint ventures can be exported to China. This will naturally contribute towards reducing our huge trade deficit," he said.
Responding to a question on the implementation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) projects in Nepal, he said that there is a consensus among all the political forces in Nepal that the implementation of MCC is important for our development.
Six years after the signing of the agreement between the US and Nepal, the MCC project came into implementation on August 30. Nepal inked the MCC pact to fund infrastructure projects in the country in 2017 and it has been a bone of contention between the US and China. The grant assistance of USD 500 million from the US government under the MCC project for a period of five years is to be utilised for upgrading road transport and constructing transmission lines in the Himalayan nation.
"This project is not only a big grant assistance from the US government, but our government has also made a huge investment for this. He said contracts are being awarded for the implementation of the project, which aims to upgrade roads and construct transmission lines.
Alice Albright, CEO of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), recently visited Nepal and held talks with the country's top leaders.
"We discussed various issues relating to the implementation of the MCC and the talks were held in a cordial manner. I told her that Nepal is serious about its implementation. We are committed to implementing the project on time so as to strengthen Nepal-US relations and I am confident that it will be completed on time," he said.
Reproduced from PTI, India’s primer news agency.