China has proposed an economic corridor with India through Nepal in what appears to be President Xi Jinping’s latest effort to enhance connectivity and trade links across south Asia.
Besides the economic corridor, there is also a proposal for a railway route to connect the three countries, a senior Chinese official has said.
Following Xi mooting the corridor proposal, the China-Nepal-India economic corridor was again discussed during a meeting between foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, when they met in Kathmandu recently at a conference on the quake-hit country’s reconstruction.
India has responded to the corridor proposal positively, Huang Xilian, a top official from Asian department of the ministry of foreign affairs told Indian journalists on Wednesday.
Positive it might have been but it is interesting to note that Indian officials have remained quiet about the corridor proposal though it has already been discussed twice at the highest levels.
For China, the corridor could be one of the last pieces to fit into the intricate network of road and rail links it is attempting to put in place in south Asia; the Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) corridor is already far into the discussion stage.
The Chinese official said Beijing and New Delhi were considering setting up joint study group on the project.
“Our leader (Xi) proposed the initiative of the China-Nepal-India economic corridor in promoting connectivity in the region and be able to help our common neighbour Nepal,” Huang said.
“We are happy it was positively received and responded by the Prime Minister (Modi). In Kathmandu, the two foreign ministers had more discussion the topic and reached consensus that we need to work together in the process of reconstruction (of Nepal following the April earthquake) and set up a joint study group to explore the initiative of the economic corridor,” Huang added.
Huang added that the purpose of the new initiative was to seek development not only between China and India bit also for Nepal and strengthen connectivity in the region.
On the railway link between the three countries via mountain passes in the Himalayas, Huang said if constructed it would “materialise a dream”.
“We need to have a feasibility study on it. We need to have consultations among the three. If India shows some interest we can respond positively,” he said.
Huang said China was “impressed” by India’s package to Nepal for reconstruction.
“The package announced by your foreign minister was very impressive to help Nepal, our common neighbour, and sent a positive signal to the international community that India and China will work together to help our brother country,” Huang said.
India has announced a package of $1 billion to assist Nepal.
China has pledged $10 million in cash, another 3 billion Yuan ($483 million) in assistance and was ready to provide loans to Nepal for reconstruction, he said.