Nepal-China train connectivity is expected to get priority during the visit of President Xi Jinping, Nepal’s Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel said on Wednesday. Senior Chinese officials described the October 12-13 visit to Kathmandu as a “plus” to China-India ties.
“Rail connectivity with China is a burning issue before the Nepali citizens. It’s a topic that both sides are expected to discuss when President Xi arrives here on October 12. The project has several aspects that require detailed top level negotiations,” Mr.Pokhrel told The Hindu over telephone regarding the Kathmandu-Kyirong rail connectivity that would open Nepal to Chinese trains across the Himalayas.
The connectivity between Kathmandu and Kyirong in Tibet has acquired greater significance since the blockade of 2015-16. The economic blockade that froze the movement of goods from India to Nepal had strengthened the arguments in favour of securing an alternate connectivity option for Kathmandu. The trans-Himalayan project is estimated at $2.75 billion and is considered to be one of the most ambitious infrastructure plans ever undertaken by the Chinese government. Discussions during the visit are expected to focus on the crucial issue of financing of the massive project.
The Minister said the visit is an honour for the people of Nepal as this is the first official journey by a Chinese President in nearly two and half decades. President Xi will arrive in Kathmandu for an overnight visit on October 12, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal announced on Wednesday morning. The visit will commence after completion of Mr. Xi’s India visit.
China's Vice Minister Luo Zhaohui also drew attention to the “new railway connectivity initiative” with Nepal and said, “We hope that China-India plus cooperation will be expanded to Nepal. We also hope that the cooperation will be expanded to Bhutan.” Mr. Luo who was till recently China’s Ambassador in India said Beijing wants to extend collaboration with India from South-Southeast Asia to Africa.
A press release issued by Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that during the visit, Mr. Xi will hold delegation level talks with Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli following which bilateral agreements and MoUs will be signed. He will leave Nepal on October 13.
Mr. Pokhrel said Nepal does not have a “shopping list” for President Xi for the moment and is considering the visit as an opportunity to build closer Kathmandu-Beijing ties. “We are treating the visit as an opportunity that will build a bridge of friendship between Kathmandu and Beijing,” said Mr. Pokhrel.
The rail connectivity between Nepal and China has been in discussion since Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” visited Beijing as Nepal’s Prime Minister in 2008. The issue had also come up during Mr. Oli’s latest visit to Beijing.
Apart from the railways, both sides are also expected to evaluate hydropower projects and several internal infrastructure projects. Nepal’s 5G network is expected to come up for discussion as well.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari will host a banquet in honour of the visiting Chinese leader in the evening of October 12.