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Nepal says committed to major projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Nepal has signed a framework agreement on the Belt and Road Initiative and foreign minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara has assured China that his country is committed to major infrastructure projects.

world Updated: Sep 08, 2017 17:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Nepal-China relations,Belt and Road Initiative,foreign minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara
Nepal foreign minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara (centre) at an event at the China Foreign Affairs University in Beijing on September 8, 2017.(Nepal foreign ministry)

Nepal has said it is committed to undertake several big ticket infrastructure projects under China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) though details of the ventures are yet to be discussed with Beijing.

Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the deputy prime minister and foreign minister, gave an assurance in this regard to China’s top leadership during his ongoing visit to Beijing. Mahara strongly backed the BRI during talks with Premier Li Keqiang, foreign minister Wang Yi and state councillor Yang Jeichi.

During his meeting with Li on Thursday evening, Mahara said that he had “come up with a common consensus among major political leaders in the government and in the opposition to carry forward railway connectivity as a national priority project”.

While expressing caution over the possibility of trans-Himalayan rail connectivity, Li told Mahara it is not political will but the difficult terrain that will decide railway projects between the two countries. Li said a feasibility study will take a long time because of the terrain.

Nepal signed a framework agreement on the BRI in May. India has been keeping a wary eye on China’s efforts to rope in countries in the neighbourhood for the BRI.

China plans to expand a high-speed railway line up to the Nepal border by 2020. It has also urged Nepal to further expand the line to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha located close to the India border.

Chinese firms have conducted a pre-feasibility study for railway projects but Nepal is yet to give approval for a detailed project report on the expansion of the railway line this is expected to cost more than $4 billion.

During his meetings with the Chinese leaders, Mahara said Nepal and China have been working closely to capitalise on the opportunities provided by the BRI. The initiative will enhance cooperation in cross-border connectivity, infrastructure, trade, tourism, investments and people-to-people relations.

Mahara also told state councillor Yang that Nepal has accorded high importance to implementing a memorandum of understanding on the BRI signed by the two said. He expressed the conviction that Nepal’s development needs and aspirations will be prioritised and given their due place under the BRI.

Yang said the two sides should elevate their ties to new heights with a long-term vision and implement projects under the BRI for mutual benefit.

A memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation was initialled during the visit. It will pave the way for more cooperation in developing power projects and joint investments in power grid, including a feasibility study on cross-border grid interconnections, according to a statement from Nepal’s embassy in Beijing.

Another MoU was signed for activities to promote Nepal’s tourism sector in China, including Buddhist tourism.

First Published: Sep 08, 2017 17:36 IST