Kathmandu: Center for Social Inclusion and Federalism hosted a seminar on BRI and Nepal China Relations on Thursday at Everest Hotel in Kathmandu.
The seminar was held ahead of a visit of State Councilor and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
In the course of the seminar, three major themes were discussed by three separate panels. The themes were BRI and Geopolitics: Risks and Opportunities, Nepal-China Cross-border Relations, and Nepal-China Trade, Transit, and Transport.
Ajaya Bhadra Khanal, Arpan Gelal, and Shraddha Ghimire presented their research findings on the topics respectively.
The first panel emphasized the impacts of ensuing great power rivalry on Nepal and viewed Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit from the same lens.
Furthermore, the panel discussed the contrasting models of diplomacy being practiced by Washington and Beijing and their averments towards one another regarding MCC and BRI.
In the context of BRI, the panelist opined that the component of the loan makes the BRI a complicated issue. Thus, the said issue may possibly reflect anxiety and caution in Nepal’s negotiations with the Chinese side resulting in the delay in the implementation of the BRI project.
The second panel discussion revolved around the topic of Nepal-China cross-border relations. Panelists highlighted that there has been a lack of discussion on Nepal-China border issues, while most of the focus has been on the issues along the southern border. Another major theme that emerged during the discussions was the absence of local communities in the decision-making process which has also created dissonance on the understanding of the border between borderland communities and the capital.
The disregard of northern bordering communities from the state institutions have made them increasingly dependent on Chinese assistance even for their daily supplies.
There is an apparent infrastructure asymmetry between Nepal and China which has further contributed to Nepal’s growing dependency on China. Finally, to improve the cross-border relations, it is important to develop strong bilateral mechanisms, include borderland communities in the decision-making process, improve coordination between the concerned ministries and invest in the infrastructure of border management agencies.
The third session of the seminar dealt with the trade, transit and transportation relationship with China. The presenter highlighted the TTA agreement between the two countries was signed in 2016 which allowed Nepal for seaports and three land ports via China. It has been more than five years since the agreement was signed but the agreement has not been materialized.
Furthermore, the Nepal-China border has been closed since 2020 due to Covid-19 as China imposed strict Covid-19 regulations, sanitation and protocols. This has impacted Nepal’s trade and economy with China.
The question regarding the geopolitical and strategic interest of China and Nepal’s economic benefit through the transboundary Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network was raised. The panelist questioned if the relation of China-Nepal is based on friendship or just mercantile partner?
About 80 participants registered to attend the event including diplomats, bureaucrats, journalists and reporters, and scholars of various fields.