Kathmandu: Two former foreign ministers of Nepal have said that Nepal should negotiate with China for grants or concessional loans to implement the BRI projects. Prakash Sharan Mahat and Pradeep Gyawali—former foreign ministers from Nepali Congress and CPN-UML respectively—put forth this view during the seminar on ‘BRI in South Asia’ organized in the capital on Friday by Center from Social Inclusion and Federalism (CESIF).
Speaking in the program, Mahat highlighted the importance of Nepal-China relationship and claimed that the BRI carried both opportunities as well challenges for Nepal. He stressed that the further implementation of the BRI in Nepal should be strictly based on cost-benefit analysis. He also stressed that Nepal couldn’t accept commercial loans from any country and should rather negotiate for grants for BRI projects.
Gyawali, on the other hand, opined that Nepal should give a benefit of doubt to China’s BRI. While he too reiterated that Nepal couldn’t move ahead with commercial loans to undertake BRI infrastructure projects, he claimed that there still is a room for negotiation with China to insist for grants or concessional loans mentioning that Nepal and China are yet to decide on the financing modality of the projects.
Nepal signed the MoU on BRI in 2017 but not a single project has been undertaken, nor any provisions implemented so far.
The seminar brought together ex-ministers, analysts, academics, diplomats, bureaucrats, politicians, government officials, journalists and experts from South Asian Countries to discuss upon the issues surrounding China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), its geopolitical implications, the fear of perceived “debt-trap diplomacy” of China and other country-specific concerns.
During the program, Vijay Kant Karna, the executive chairperson of CESIF, said the BRI is a strategic tool. “Although labelled as an initiative by China, BRI is a global strategic tool. With connectivity links and infrastructure projects spanning as many as one hundred and forty countries, China has aimed to create an alternative economic system with self at the center. This could ultimately pose a challenge to the US-led liberal world order,” said Karna.
Discussing upon varied interest of regional and global actors, he further added that, “the cause of concern isn’t that global and regional actors are seeking to advance their own interest in Nepal. In fact, that’s what all states do.” “The concern, however, is that, if Nepal will be able find the delicate geopolitical balance while still prioritizing its national interests,” he said.
The seminar witnessed a series of presentations by four international delegates from South Asia, who provided their country-specific experiences on BRI.