Nepal and China on Friday signed a framework agreement on Beijing’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, days ahead of a summit in Beijing to showcase President Xi Jinping’s ambitious plan to build a modern day Silk Road.
Foreign secretary Shankar Das Bairagi and Chinese ambassador Yu Hong signed the memorandum of understanding on Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative during a function at the foreign ministry in Kathmandu.
The ceremony was witnessed by deputy prime minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and foreign minister Prakash Sharan Mahat, who described the MoU as a major step in Nepal-China relations. Nepal wants investments for road and railway connectivity, which are key to the country’s development, he said.
A statement from the foreign ministry said the MoU’s major thrust is promoting cooperation on connectivity of facilities, trade and people, and financial integration. It also aims to promote people-to-people exchanges.
“The MoU seeks to strengthen cooperation in connectivity sectors including transit transport, logistic systems, transport network and related infrastructure development such as railway, road, civil aviation, power grid, information and communication,” the statement said.
A decision to sign the framework agreement on President Xi’s flagship initiative, which will invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids across Asia, Africa and Europe, was taken by the Cabinet on Monday after months of extended negotiations.
A high-level Nepalese delegation led by Mahara will attend the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing during May 14-15. Information and communications minister Surendra Kumar Karki and infrastructure and transport minister Ramesh Lekhak will also be part of the team.
Nepal’s signing of the MoU was highlighted by Chinese state media, indicating that Beijing was looking at it as a strengthening of bilateral ties despite New Delhi’s influence over Kathmandu.
“China has a clear-cut approach toward China-Nepal-India trilateral relations. It hopes Nepal can become a bridge between China and India. By pushing forward the China-Nepal-India economic corridor, it can boost development in all three countries. No matter how India views cooperation between China and Nepal, such cooperation will continue to expand, as it fits the interests of both peoples,” the nationalistic tabloid Global Times had said in a comment piece last month..