China and Nepal have agreed on expanding cooperation under President Xi Jinping‘s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), promoting free trade arrangements and increasing industrial and energy capacities, the state media reported.
The report came hours after Xi met visiting Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal “Prachanda“ in Beijing on Monday.
Prachanda’s visit comes at a time when India appears to have improved ties with Nepal after a period of diplomatic turbulence.
“Both sides are expected to promote cooperation in connectivity, free trade arrangements, agriculture, industrial capacity, energy and post-disaster reconstruction, taking advantage of the opportunity provided by jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative,” Xi was quoted as saying at the bilateral meeting in the Great Hall of the People.
“Xi called on the two sides to strengthen political trust, have more close exchanges and support each other on issues concerning their core interests and major concerns,” state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Prachanda was quoted as saying that Nepal supports the BRI and that Kathmandu is willing to work with Beijing in different sectors to strengthen bilateral cooperation.
“Dahal said Nepal appreciates China's important and positive role in international affairs and is ready to have close coordination and cooperation with China in international and regional affairs,” the state media reported.
Earlier this month, state media had speculated whether the visit of the Nepalese prime minister would boost relations between the two side, which were at a “low ebb” since Prachanda became premier last year.
“For quite some time, Prachanda, PM of Nepal and chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center), had been friendly toward China. However, since assuming office for the second time as prime minister on August 3, 2016, he has visited India twice and warmly welcomed Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in Kathmandu last November. Given Prachanda's pro-India foreign policy, the Sino-Nepalese relationship has fallen into low ebb,” Zhang Shubin, director of the Nepal Study Center at Hebei University of Economics & Business, wrote.
Zhang said: “Prachanda's term is about to come to an end. A China tour at this point and possible deals with the Chinese side can be a significant sign of improvement in the bilateral relationship.
“No matter which political party comes to power, China would like to advocate cooperation. China is always ready to help Nepal to develop its economy and achieve prosperity. Nepal can become another ‘iron friend’ of China in South Asia,” Zhang added.