BRI implementation plan discussed with China for Nepal’s development: Dy PM Shrestha

KATHMANDU, Apr 1 : Nepal and China have made progress in moving forward with the implementation plan of the Beijing-backed Belt and Road Initiative projects in the Himalayan nation, Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha said here on Monday.

Shrestha, who is also the Minister for Foreign Affairs, returned home on Monday, after concluding an eight-day official visit to China from March 25 to April 1.

He held discussions with Chinese officials on matters relating to giving final shape to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Implementation Plan for its actual implementation.

“An understanding has already been reached with China regarding the BRI Implementation Plan during the visit of our Prime Minister to China and talks have moved forward during my visit as per the understanding,” he said.

Under the BRI, Nepal is free to select development projects as per its choice, he added.

Responding to a question, he said “We prefer grant assistance under the BRI but both options including, grant and loan are open and the matter will be discussed later after signing the implementation plan.”

The BRI, also referred to as the “New Silk Road”, is a 10-year-old project initiated by China for building land and sea infrastructure in multiple countries.

Nepal and China signed the BRI framework agreement seven years ago, on May 12, 2017, and the Chinese side forwarded the plan’s text at the end of 2019.

After the Nepali side expressed serious reservations about the text, arguing that Nepal is not interested in commercial loans from China, and set several other conditions to accept support under the BRI framework, negotiations over the BRI projects and implementation plan were halted, local media had reported, quoting Nepalese Foreign Ministry officials.

“My China visit has been successful in further strengthening mutual respect, goodwill and trust between the two countries,” Shrestha told journalists at the Tribhuvan International Airport upon his arrival.

“I believe that the visit has played an important role in taking the friendly relations existing between Nepal and China to a new height,” he said.

“As the Nepal government has already waived visa fees to Chinese tourists coming to the country since 2016, I have also asked the government of China to reciprocate by providing free visas to Nepalese travellers, to which the Chinese side has given a positive response,” he said.

“Since China is an important and reliable development partner of Nepal, the northern neighbour assured me that it would make available an enhanced level of cooperation to Nepal, during my visit,” he added.

During his visit, Shrestha also asked the Chinese authorities to ease the travel restrictions imposed by Beijing on foreign tourists visiting the Kailash – Mansarovar pilgrimage site located in Tibet via Nepal to boost the Himalayan nation’s tourism sector.

The two sides have taken positive note to resume direct bus services between Kathmandu and Lhasa, the autonomous region of China, said the foreign minister.

“To facilitate effective implementation of past understandings reached between Nepal and China in the past, the two sides have agreed to convene regular meetings of existing mechanisms and to make mutual cooperation further dynamic,” reads a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry.

Nepal and China agreed to discuss various aspects of friendly relations at a higher level regularly and to set up a Joint Commission at the level of Foreign Minister.

The Chinese government is also positive to provide necessary capital and technical assistance to Nepal for increasing agricultural productivity, Shrestha said.

Both sides have shown interest in further expanding connectivity between Nepal and China through the expansion of international road network, railway, air-route and electricity transmission lines, he added.

“We had a positive discussion on matters relating to the construction of the development corridor among Nepal-Tibet-Chhongchhing-Sichuan,” the foreign minister said.

He also requested the Chinese government to make the upcoming Nepal Investment Summit 2024 being held from April 28 to 29 in Kathmandu successful, through maximum participation of Chinese investors in the summit.

“I have called Chinese investors to invest in Nepal during a pre-investment summit organised by the Nepalese embassy in Beijing on March 26, 2024,” he said. (PTI)