Kathmandu: Even though a section of the intelligentsia has been projecting the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s signature infrastructure project unveiled by president Xi Jinping in 2013, as a debt trap diplomacy of the world second largest economy, experts of South Asia have said that the BRI offers a lot of opportunities for countries in the region for development and poverty eradication.
While addressing China-South Asia Forum on Poverty Reduction and Development Cooperation held in Kathmandu on Wednesday, the speakers spoke glowingly of China’s BRI and termed the ‘debt trap’ narrative as a product of deliberate misinformation.
“BRI is China’s ambitious program with long-term vision. This project can change the face of the world and change the life of people,” Ganesh Timilsina, the chair of National Assembly, the Upper House of Nepal. “People of the world will benefit from this project.” He further said that the BRI will play a crucial role in shaping the future of the world while adding that misleading information has been spread about the BRI. “Efforts have been made to spread false information about BRI,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, Chinese envoy to Nepal, Chen Song, cited the ‘Lively Village’ project launched by China in Sindhupalchok district in July this year as an example of China working for poverty alleviation in South Asian countries. He also said China has been actively conducting international cooperation related to poverty. He mentioned that during China visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ both the countries agreed to focus their attention in exchanging support to reduce poverty, to improve living standard of the people and revival of rural areas.
Dr Yubaraj Sangroula, Former Attorney General and scholar, said that the BRI is an important project for countries like Nepal and South Asia region to get rid of poverty. Speaking of how Nepal has found itself caught between the geopolitical game, he said that India has allied itself with the US in its Indo-Pacific Strategy, creating a geopolitical trap for Nepal. “India has failed to see the significance of BRI in contributing to development and poverty reduction in South Asia,” he said.
Kalyan Raj Sharma, President of Nepal-China Friendship Forum, said the BRI provides a platform for shared prosperity. With its ability to facilitate trade, connectivity and job creation, BRI can help in development of South Asia and poverty reduction in the region, he said. Citing the study by World Bank, he said that BRI can lift millions of people out of poverty. “BRI has the potential to lift 32 million people out of poverty, if it is implemented well,” said Sharma.
Arun Bhattarai, Vice-President of Nepal-China Academy said Nepal should draw lessons from China in poverty eradication and development.
On the occasion a book entitled ‘The Belt and Road Initiative: A Decade of Collaboration China-South Asia Cooperation and Development Report’ was also launched. Experts and scholars from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan aired their views in the program. They praised China’s success stories in poverty eradication and development and said that South Asian countries, including Nepal and India, should draw lessons from China to address the problems of underdevelopment and poverty in their respective countries.