Professor Hu Shisheng, Director at the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, keeps a close eye on Nepal issues. Sanjeev Giri of The Kathmandu Post spoke with Hu about the signing of framework agreement on China’s Belt and Road (BOR) initiative, days ahead of a summit in Beijing where an ambitious plan to build a modern-day Silk Road trade routes and lead a new era of globalisation would be unveiled.

1. What is the significance of signing of framework agreement on Belt and Road (BRI) initiative between Nepal and China?

The signing will bring bilateral economic and social cooperation especially in the area of post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal. The process will move in a more rapid and undisturbed way.

 2. What do you think is the way forward for the two countries now? What are the things that can be carried out in the near future under the BRI initiative?

In  the  coming  months,  it  is  very  important  to set up a joint working mechanism focusing on the  match between the  post-earthquake  reconstruction  works  and  projects  in  Nepal  along with  the  potential BRI  projects.

It is also important  to  speed up  the  feasibility  studies  of  trans-border railway  linkages  and  speed  up  the  studies  on  how  to  materialise  the  Free Trade Agreement  between  these  two  countries.  Government of both the countries should make sure that all  the work remain undisturbed by the  process  of  the political and  administrative  restructuring  efforts  in  Nepal. There should be consensus among the major political parties in Nepal while undertaking the joint efforts guided by the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Perhaps this should be the priority of Nepal government.

3. How will this agreement deepen cooperation between Nepal – China?

The  MOU  will  provide  critical guidance  and policy support for the  two  governments to  undertake  cooperation  in  major  projects  related to development programmes  and strategies  matchup or interface,  physical  connectivity, trade  facilitation,  financial  assistance,  and  people-to-people  and institutional  exchanges. And when the time is ripe, we can initiate the construction of much touted China-Nepal (and India) Economic Corridor.

4. As New Delhi hasn’t agreed on BOR framework, how beneficial will the agreement with Nepal be for China?

I  strongly  believe  when  Indian  neighbors  are  all  involving  into  the  effort  in  building connectivity  and  industrial  cooperation  in the guidance  of   the  BRI  and when  India  has  also  made  solid  progress  in  its  sub-regional  integration  effort such  as Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal (BBIN) initiative,  Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Mekong-Ganga Cooperation,  India  will naturally  become  a part  of  BRI,  whether  New  Delhi  accepts  it  or  not.

However,  before that,  there  is  one outstanding concern  that  whether India’s  neighbors  (except  Pakistan) can afford or can stand up against  the pressure and even disturbance from India.

It  is  up  to  India’s  neighbours  to  decide  or  make  a choice.  However, the benefit from BRI should not be taken for granted forever.

–  THE KATHMANDU POST

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