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Nepal’s Oli makes surprise China border visit, vows to modernise transit point

The motive for the visit remains unknown, but it may be an indication that the incoming government to be headed by Oli is likely to tilt towards Beijing and seek support for larger connectivity projects including road and railways.

world Updated: Dec 19, 2017 23:49 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
Nepal China relations,Nepal India ties,Oli on Nepal China border
Chairman of CPN-UML KP Sharma Oli visited the China-Nepal border just days after saying Kathmandu will follow a balanced foreign policy when it comes to relations with India and China.(REUTERS)

In what appears to be a strong message to India, Nepal’s prime minister-in-waiting KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday made a surprise visit to the country’s border with China in Rasuwagadhi and inspected the only trade and transit point between the two countries.

The motive for the visit remains unknown, but it may be an indication that the incoming government to be headed by the CPN-UML chairman is likely to tilt towards Beijing and seek support for larger connectivity projects including road and railways.

The Rasuwagadhi-Kerung border point would be upgraded to international standards, Oli said during the visit described by Nepali media as “sudden” and surprising to many. “We will bring the Chinese rail through this border point,” he added. “Given the difficult terrain, we will construct cable cars across the border so that cross-border movement can be eased.”

China has already announced plans to develop Rasuwagadhi -Kerung into an international border crossing, calling it a gateway to South Asia.

Oli, who was accompanied by top party officials, said that some dry ports will be constructed around the border point. He also vowed to expand the Rasuwagadhi–Kerung-Kathmandu road into four lanes. It is seen as an alternative to Birgunj, a border point between Nepal and India.

Rasuwagadhi–Kerung is the only trading post between Nepal and China.

Oli, who landed in a restricted area in the border point after taking permission from the Chinese side, remembered his visit to China in 2016.

His border trip comes at a time when the Left Alliance has publicly announced that it would opt for a “balanced” foreign policy.

Foreign affairs watchers in Kathmandu are perplexed as to what message Oli wants to send to New Delhi with this outing, just before Nepal parliament names him as prime minister.

First Published: Dec 19, 2017 21:18 IST