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 Chinaâ€™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.
Â 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?
InÂ theÂ comingÂ months,Â itÂ isÂ veryÂ importantÂ to set up a joint working mechanism focusing on theÂ match between theÂ post-earthquake reconstructionÂ worksÂ andÂ projectsÂ inÂ NepalÂ along withÂ the
potential BRIÂ projects.
It is also importantÂ toÂ speed upÂ theÂ feasibilityÂ studiesÂ of trans-border railwayÂ linkagesÂ andÂ speedÂ upÂ theÂ studiesÂ onÂ how toÂ materialiseÂ theÂ Free Trade AgreementÂ betweenÂ theseÂ two countries.Â Government of both the countries should make sure that all
the work remain undisturbed by theÂ processÂ ofÂ the political and administrativeÂ restructuringÂ effortsÂ inÂ 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?
TheÂ MOUÂ willÂ provideÂ critical guidanceÂ and policy support for theÂ twoÂ governments toÂ undertakeÂ cooperationÂ inÂ majorÂ projects related to development programmesÂ and strategiesÂ matchup or interface,Â physicalÂ connectivity, tradeÂ facilitation,Â financial
assistance,Â andÂ people-to-peopleÂ and institutionalÂ 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?
IÂ stronglyÂ believeÂ whenÂ IndianÂ neighborsÂ areÂ allÂ involving intoÂ theÂ effortÂ inÂ building connectivityÂ andÂ industrial cooperationÂ in the guidanceÂ ofÂ Â theÂ BRIÂ and whenÂ IndiaÂ has
alsoÂ madeÂ solidÂ progressÂ inÂ itsÂ sub-regionalÂ integration effort suchÂ as Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal (BBIN) initiative,Â Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic
Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Mekong-Ganga Cooperation,Â IndiaÂ will naturallyÂ becomeÂ a partÂ ofÂ BRI,Â whetherÂ NewÂ DelhiÂ acceptsÂ it orÂ not.
However,Â before that,Â thereÂ isÂ one outstanding concernÂ that whether India’sÂ neighborsÂ (exceptÂ Pakistan) can afford or can stand up againstÂ the pressure and even disturbance from India.
ItÂ isÂ upÂ toÂ India’sÂ neighboursÂ toÂ decideÂ orÂ makeÂ a choice. However, the benefit from BRI should not be taken for granted forever.