Kathmandu: There was no notice from either side. There was no expectation that it would happen again. But it did.
On August 9, Nepali traders were taken aback when the movement of goods to and from Nepal to China came to an abrupt halt at Tatopani and Kerung border points. The Chinese side, like in the past, cited the rise of Covid cases in the Tibet region as the reason for the obstruction of trade.
On August 9, 27 cases of Covid-19 infection were reported in Tibet.
Curiously, this happened the day Nepali foreign minister Narayan Khadka was on a visit to China where he was expected to raise vital issues of facilitation of trade between Nepal and China.
Since August 9, trucks bound to Nepal have been stopped across the border. Trucks bound to China from Nepal are lying stuck inside Nepal.
Nepal’s trade with China via land route first suffered a setback in 2015 when the earthquakes damaged the infrastructure along the border region between China and Nepal. Only Tatopani border point was operational at that time. Besides, recurrent floods and landslides made the trade through the Araniko Highway extremely difficult.
Then Kerung border was thought of as an alternative to Araniko Highway to conduct trade with China. Though the road to Kerung suffers damages during the rainy seasons, Kerung provided a respite to Nepali traders bringing in goods from China. It was hoped that the trade with China would return to pre-2015 level after both Tatotapani and Kerung border points became operational. Then came the pandemic in 2020 and since then the Chinese side has closed the border points, from time to time, citing the Covid-19 pandemic. At least this is what Nepali traders and business people say.
“We understand the seriousness of the Chinese side in containing the pandemic. But why cannot the goods be transported from Nepal to China and China to Nepal?”said Ramchandra Parajuli, who is the Secretary at Nepal Trans Himalaya Border Commerce Association, a private business organization that aims to promote trade between Nepal and China and facilitate import and export between the two countries.
According to him, closure of border entry points in Tatopani and Kerung has left Nepali traders and business people high and dry. The obstruction of goods from China to Nepal has become a matter of serious discussion among the traders and businesspeople. Nepali traders fear losing billions of rupees on the eve of Dashain if the border points continue to remain closed, he said.
“Nepali traders will lose more. But Nepal and China as friendly countries should think from a higher level for both Nepal and China will lose if the movement of goods does not resume,” Parajuli told Nepal Live Today.
According to him, solutions can be found if the Chinese side so wants. “Disinfectants can be spread on and inside the cargo trucks. The Chinese side only needs to facilitate transportation of goods up to Nepal,” he said.
“We are not asking for anything that may make the Covid situation in Tibet worse. I would like to believe trade can be conducted smoothly even if there is Covid situation. It’s not about the movement of people. It’s about the movement of goods. It’s about trade,” said Parajuli.
Business organizations such as Trans Himalaya Border Commerce Association have been knocking the doors of the Nepali authorities to find a solution. They have been meeting minister after minister. But there have been only assurances but no action.“Nepali authorities say they are trying their best. The Chinese side does not seem to be cooperating,” Parajuli said.
A source at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu said they are aware about the difficulties and are working to find the solution. “We are aware of the situation and we are working on it to find the solution. We hope to find the results soon,” said the source.